Prof. Dr. Hansjörg Herr, Maité Llanos, Gilad Isaacs, Susan Hayter, Patrick Belser, Prof Dr Mary Bellman, Dr Luis Campos, and Frank Hoffer

Fair Wage Strategies in a Global Economy

  • Oct 2017
  • Self-Paced
  • English
  • Interdisciplinary

About this course

Billons of workers around the world have no regular income or do not even earn a wage sufficient to live a decent life. Over the last decade, wages for many workers have been stagnant and the largest part of the economic gains achieved has gone to the top of the income pyramid. Wage discrimination based on gender, ethnicity or employment status contributes towards greater inequality and violates the basic principle of equal pay for work of equal value. The market has been unable to ensure a fair distribution of wages and guarantee the wellbeing of ordinary people and social peace in our societies.

Where poverty and inequality have been reduced, this has mainly been thanks to the creation of regular waged jobs and a more equitable wage structure. Sustainable wage policies and fair wage setting mechanisms can contribute towards a more equal and prosperous society for all. This course offers a mix of video lectures and interviews, readings, online resources and exercises to gain both knowledge and practical skills to understand the actual landscape of wage setting.

What do I need to know?

The course requires a working level of English and some prior knowledge of wage policies and economics will make it easier to follow. However, theoretical concepts are explained in an accessible and user-friendly manner, so it is also possible to participate in the course using skills and knowledge acquired outside formal education.

What will I learn?

This course explains global wage trends and discusses the particularities and strategies of collective bargaining and minimum wages as wage setting mechanisms. The course presents global trends and analyzes the relationship between wages and economic development, as well as the impact of migration, gender and racial discrimination on wages policies. After presenting the major challenges for setting fair wages today, the course will look at successful experiences and labour campaigns that resulted in better working and living conditions, and ongoing initiatives for living wages.

Course Structure

Each week, we will open a new chapter and the chapters will remain accessible once they are opened. So you can go back to prior chapters at any time. The estimated workload is 3-4 hours per week.

Chapter 1: Political economy of wages

This chapter provides a general overview of the current global picture on wages. Senior experts from the International Labour Organisation (ILO), introduce the main global trends on wages and explain how non-standard forms of employment have impacted the world of work. The chief trade union negotiator for the new minimum wage in South Africa, discusses the political and economic challenges of wage setting, while a member of the Trade Union Advisory Committee (TUAC) to the OECD, explains the multiple purposes of collective bargaining. Participants will be invited to introduce themselves and share relevant material in an interactive world map.

Chapter 2: The role of collective bargaining

This chapter focuses on the key role that collective bargaining plays for wage setting. ILO expert Susan Hayter describes the various actors in the bargaining process and how the different negotiation formats have a direct impact on current wage trends and wage-income distribution. Trade unionists from Argentina and Germany introduce different existing bargaining models and a practical case, including the right to strike as the underlying indispensable of any real bargaining process.

Chapter 3: Minimum and living wages

This chapter introduces the concept and history of minimum wages, as well as the existing international labour standards that provide a regulatory framework for minimum wage setting. It also looks at the actual levels of country-level compliance. Experts from South Africa discuss what the policy considerations are when designing minimum wages and the benefits of setting minimum wages in a country with a very unequal wage distribution. Finally, the challenge of compliance with minimum wage regulations will be explored. At the end of the chapter, the peer-review assignment invites you to apply your newly acquired knowledge to a practical case from your country.

Chapter 4: Macroeconomics of wages

This chapter untangles the relationship between wages and economic development. It discusses how wages are shaped by, and impact, different economic regimes, and then goes on to discuss the relationship between wages, inequality and economic policy. These topics are presented by economic experts from Europe and India. The chapter explains these fundamental and important economic concepts in an accessible way.

Chapter 5: Wage setting in an unfair world

Various forms of discrimination contribute towards wage inequality. Experts from Brazil and India introduce discrimination based on gender, race, cast and ethnicity and the how these shape wage levels. Trade unionists from the Global South discuss the challenges of wage setting for migrant workers and workers in precarious employment.

Chapter 6: Workers’ strategies and campaigns for Minimum Wages, Collective Bargaining and Decent Wages

Workers from different parts of the world are undertaking campaigns for living wages to address social inequalities and to ensure decent jobs. This chapter explores examples of such campaigns, such as, the Asian Floor Wage Initiative, the Fight for Fifteen campaign in the United States, the minimum wage campaign in South Africa and the difficulties of negotiating wages in an inflationary environment in Latin America, in order to draw lessons for trade union strategies around the world.

Course options

Audit Track (for free)
No requirements

Audit track with Statement of Participation (29 €)
For obtaining your Statement of Participation in the Audit Track, you need to complete 80% of the video lectures and quizzes.

Certificate Track with Certificate of Accomplishment (49 €)
The requirements for gaining a Certificate of Accomplishment and a Certificate Supplement in the Certificate Track are:
- Completion of 80% of the video lectures and quizzes
- Completion of the peer review assignment (including evaluation of 7 peer answers)
- Completion of the Multiple Choice Exam within 120 minutes. The questions in the Multiple Choice Exam will be based on the video lectures and quizzes of all chapters. If you belong to the best 10%, this achievement will be stated in the Certificate of Accomplishment. During the exam week, you can choose freely when you would like to start the exam. You can start studying in the Audit Track and then decide to upgrade to the Certificate Track until 3 weeks after the course start.

MOOC team

Prof. Dr. Herr Hansjorg (Professor Emeritus of the Berlin School of Economics and Law (Germany). Expert in micro- and macro-economics, international economics and economic and monetary policy)

Gilad Isaacs (Research Director at the University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa). Expertise in minimum wages, macroeconomics, finance and economic development)

Dr. Frank Hoffer (Executive Director of ACT Foundation)

Neil Coleman (Strategies Co-ordinator of Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) Secretariat)

Susan Hayter (International Labour Organization (ILO) Senior Labour Relations Specialist - Labour Relations and Working Conditions Branch (INWORK))

Patrick Belser (ILO Senior Economist and main editor of the ILO Global Wage Report)

Prof Dr. Mary Bellman (Penn State University (United States), lecturer of Labor and Employment Relations as well as a labor educator with unions and workers)

Dr. Luis Campos (Coordinator of the Observatory of Social Law. Lecturer at the University of Lanus (Argentina), specialist on migration)

Maité Llanos (Project coordinator, Global Labour University)

International experts

Guy Ryder (ILO - Director-General)

Prof. Dr. Carlos Salas (Unicamp Brazil - Economic Theory and gender studies)

Bandile Ngidi (Rural Transformation Project Officer, Oxfam South Africa)

Ruth Castel-Branco – (PhD candidate, Department of Sociology, University of the Witwatersrand)

Prof. Dr. Praveen Jha (Professor for Economics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India)

Dr. Uma Rani (ILO Senior Development Economist)

Janine Berg (ILO Senior Economist)

Ashim Roy (Vice-President of the New Trade Union Initiative, India)

Prof. Dr Archana Prassad (Centre for Informal Sector and Labour Studies, School of Social Sciences of Jawaharlal Nehru University, India)

Vagner Freitas (President of CUT Brazil)

Juneia Batista (Women’s secretary of CUT Brazil)

Thorsten Schulte (Institute of Economic and Social Research – Hans Bockler Foundation)

Jane Barrett (Director of Organization and Representation of WIEGO)

Wolfgang Pieper (VER.DI)

Photo: Barry Solow / CC BY