For more than a decade, discussions about living wages often end in stalemate, as various actors disagree about exactly how to measure living wages. While exact methodologies are important, FWF believes that issues other than measurement are the key to unlocking living wages.
Together with its stakeholders, FWF developed the FWF Wage Ladder, which allows us to leapfrog past the wage measurement debate and start working on improving workers’ wages today.
The FWF wage ladder enables us to do several key things when it comes to measurement:
- rely on local actors for appropriate living wage estimates (FWF partners in production countries keep us updated on new estimates)
- make the (sometimes broad) range of living wage estimates publicly-available – this means that everyone involved in wage negotiations has access to the same data
- work with FWF members and partners to address the other key questions impeding real action on living wages.
Access FWF’s Wage Ladder here
About the wage ladder concept
The concept of a wage ladder was developed by Rut Tufts during the Jo-In project in Turkey, which FWF helped to lead. A wage ladder is a simple benchmarking system used to chart wage levels. As with any ladder, the aim is to ‘move up the rungs of the ladder – step by step.’
Because the wage ladder can include various wage standards and benchmarks, it averts lengthy debating seeking to agree on a single benchmark or measurement methodology.
The wage ladder also allows a variety of local stakeholders to have a voice in the living wage discussion. In today’s garment industry, these are voices most brands and factory managers might never otherwise hear.
The FWF’s online, open-source wage ladder tool came to life in 2011, based on several years of research and development. In late 2014, we launched 2.0 version, and further improvements are likely in the future.
FWF uses the tool in all factory audits conducted by FWF teams – and it is a critical starting point for brands, suppliers and worker representatives seeking to make progress on living wages.
How to put the wage ladder tool to use?
Brands, suppliers and workers’ representatives can see how current wages compare to living wage estimates – and can begin negotiations on how to make improvements, moving wages ‘up the ladder’ in regular steps. By combining information from FWF’s international stakeholder network with data visualization techniques, the Wage Ladder replaces stacks of spreadsheets and reports with easy-to-understand graphics, making negotiations much more productive.
Who determines the benchmarks?
Local trade unions, NGOs, labour groups, business associations, and government agencies have been asked to estimate a living wage for their country or region. International and national benchmarks, such as the Asia Floor Wage, the UN poverty line and wage statistics, have also been included.
What’s different about the version 2.0?
FWF and its members can now compare wages between male and female employees and between different departments, both on a country and region level. A unique new function in the tool enables FWF to analyse trends and better measure progress in garment factories – to see, for example, whether wages have increased between factory audits.
Leonie Barry of Just Style reviews the new wage ladder in ‘New Wage Ladder Lifts Garment Workers Towards Living Wages,’ published 14 Nov 2014.