WageIndicator Foundation is a not for profit network which shares and compares wages of over 100 countries. Since early 2019 WageIndicator Foundation joined Partos as a member. The Foundation’s director Paulien Osse motivates why. “Our natural environment is characterised by International cooperation and development. We work with and through the international trade union movements, with employers organizations, with the ILO and at the grass roots level in a host of African, Latin American and Asian countries. It is actually an omission that only this year we joined the ranks of Partos. But now here we are, at the service of the Partos community with our databases to draw on. Sorry for being late.”
What databases do you mean?
We started with real wages, statutory minimum wages and - later - cost of living. But we did not stop there. Our websites (each country we work in has their own national website in the major language) today have much more to offer than just microdata on real wages, minimum wages, working hours and living wages for countries and regions within. We offer a full text and coded Collective Agreement-database and sample Collective Agreements to draw on, we have built and keep extending a country specific labour law database on social security and the like, now covering 100 countries - and counting.
Where you get your data from?
First, I like to point out that we collect all data, both online and face-to-face, according to one universal principle. The designer of our surveys is prof. Kea Tijdens (University of Amsterdam) with whom I set up WageIndicator back in 1999. She insisted that right from the start all data and all information we elaborate should be internally consistent, compatible, cumulative and internationally comparable. Also, all data was coded for easy retrieval. Which is why today we run similar operations in over 125 countries. Essentially our data comes from the people. Where individuals are not online, we face them in the field. Our interviewers are equipped with the same survey that is featured on the national websites. Take Myanmar. All our interviews there were done by ‘barefoot’ interviewers during 6 weeks. So, thanks to them, in November we could deliver a report about wages and living wages in a couple of regions there. The results are presently used in a debate on how to improve the minimum wage structure in that country.
So for whom actually do you work?
From the start we have always had women’s interests at heart, being working women ourselves. We analyse the gender pay gap, as well as typical problems working women must confront and solve. But it is broader than that. Underlying all of WageIndicator is a quest for fairness. Why don’t workers automatically get the information from the Collective Agreements concluded on their behalf? Or the legal minimum wage information? Why is the labour law not ‘translated’ in normal language? This information belongs to the people, by definition. It is unfair to keep it from them. That’s also why we rewrite, publish and make our online library and databases freely accessible.
“This policy allows workers, trade unions, journalists, hr-people, or NGO’s like Partos-members, to create an up-to-date print or picture of the topic or region they choose.”
And your Decent Work Check, what is it?
Our Decent Work Check is based on national labour law and ILO-conventions. During 2007 and 2008 in a dozen or so countries in Latin America, East- and West Africa we pioneered with this tool. Ten years later this tool is tried and tested. Nor it is used to create a factory-level survey for Ethiopia, Indonesia, and Uganda, where it has been and still is applied to conduct face-to-face interviews with workers and hr-staff in the garment and flower sector. After consultation with factory owners the compliance-with-the-law-results are published as factory pages on our national websites in those countries. The factory pages are seen - by trade unions - as ‘Worker Driven Social Responsibility’.
And what about Sustainable Development Goals?
There certainly is a link. We notice that multinationals are beginning to take their corporate social responsibility seriously, in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. They look for a benchmark to apply and claim that they are decent employers, at least in respect to pay levels. These pay levels of course vary per country and regions within, and here in their search for a benchmark they knock at our door, since we can provide the detailed living wage information they seek, immediately, or at short notice. Moreover, we provide it in context, i.e. the national labour markets and the specific law that regulates them, including statutory minimum wages, poverty line and real wages. Apparently, at present, no other organisation but WageIndicator can provide such information. We are happy that in this way we contribute to the implementation of at least some part of the SDG’s.