FREE
Prof. Dr. Hansjörg Herr, Dr. Uma Rani, Gilad Isaacs, Dr Frank Hoffer, Susan Hayter, Patrick Belser, Prof Dr Mary Bellman, Dr Luis Campos, Jenny Holdcroft, Maité Llanos, Tandiwe Gross, and Dr. Edlira Xhafa

Fair Wage Strategies in a Global Economy

Why are income inequalities so large and why do they continue to increase in so many countries? What role can minimum wages play in reducing social and economic inequalities? What is a good system of wage bargaining? What constitutes a fair wage?

  • MOOC
  • Self-Paced
  • English
  • Interdisciplinary

About this course

Welcome to our FREE online course "Fair Wage Strategies in a Global Economy"!

Billions 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 well-being 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 to 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.

The course was launched with a FB live discussion with experts from the Global Union Federation IndustriALL and the ILO. You can watch the FB live here: https://www.facebook.com/GlobalLabourUniversity/videos/10155160909302602/

What do I need to know?

The course requires a working level of English. 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 analyses 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 workload

The estimated workload is 5-6 hours per week if you read also the key reading for each unit.

Certificates and Scholarships

You can enrol and complete this course for FREE. If you would like to get a certificate, you have two options:

A. Certificate of Participation

You can obtain a Certificate of Participation at any time after completing the course. This means watching all the videos and responding to the quiz questions of each video. The Certificate of Participation costs 29€. If you are from a non-OECD country or a trade unionist from an OECD country, you can apply for a scholarship, by sending an email to online@global-labour-university.org indicating your organisation and the country you are from.

Certificate of Accomplishment

Aside of complying with the conditions for a Certificate of Participation, obtaining a Certificate of Accomplishment requires taking an online exam. Options for such a certificate are limited to the periods in which the GLU Online Academy organises an exam phase. The Certificate of Accomplishment costs 49€. Again, if you are from a non-OECD country or a trade unionist from an OECD country, you can apply for a scholarship, by sending an email to online@global-labour-university.org indicating your organisation and the country you are from.

How to use course materials?

You can organise a local workshop on the topics of the course combining the course materials with local experts from trade unions, labour research institutes and universities.

If you work for a university, trade union or any other labour-related institution you are welcome to integrate the course material into your education and training programmes. All video lectures and interviews, readings, online resources, and exercises can be downloaded separately and used for free.

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 bargaining models and explain practical implications, including the right to strike as the underlying indispensable condition of any genuine 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.

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

This chapter aims at drawing lessons for sustainable wages policies and trade union strategies around the world. Workers in 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 and initiatives, including the Fight for Fifteen campaign in the United States, the minimum wage campaign in South Africa, supply chain involving global buyers, and the difficulties and chances of negotiating wages in an inflationary environment in Latin America.

Course team

Prof. Dr. Hansjörg Herr (Professor Emeritus, Berlin School of Economics and Law Germany)

Dr. Uma Rani (Senior Development Economist, International Labour Organization)

Gilad Isaacs (Research Director, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa)

Dr. Frank Hoffer (Executive Director of ACT Foundation)

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

Susan Hayter (Senior Labour Relations Specialist, International Labour Organization)

Dr. Patrick Belser (Senior Economist, International Labour Organization)

Prof Dr Mary Bellman (Professor of Labour and Employment Relations, Penn State University, U.S.)

Dr. Luis Campos (Director of the Observatory of Social Rights, Workers’ Central Union (CTA - Autónoma), Argentina)

Maité Llanos (Associate Fellow, Global Labour University)

Tandiwe Gross (Associate Fellow, Global Labour University)

Course instructors (in order of appearance)

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

Dr. Patrick Belser (Senior Economist, International Labour Organization)

Dr. Janine Berg (Senior Economist, International Labour Organization)

Ronald Janssen (Economic policy adviser, Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD - TUAC)

Susan Hayter (Senior Labour Relations Specialist, International Labour Organization)

Dr. Luis Campos (Director of the Observatory of Social Rights, Workers’ Central Union (CTA - Autónoma), Argentina)

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

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

Ruth Castel-Branco (PhD candidate, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa)

Dr. Uma Rani (Senior Development Economist, International Labour Organization)

Prof. Dr. Hansjörg Herr (Professor Emeritus, Berlin School of Economics and Law Germany)

Dr. Frank Hoffer (Executive Director of ACT Foundation)

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

Prof. Dr. Carlos Salas (Professor of Economic Theory and Gender Studies, University of Campinas, Brazil)

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

Jane Barrett (Director of Organization and Representation of WIEGO)

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

Prof Dr Mary Bellman (Professor of Labour and Employment Relations, Penn State University, U.S.)

Jenny Holdcroft (Assistant General Secretary, IndustriALL)

Vagner Freitas (President, Trade Union Confederation – CUT, Brazil)

Juneia Batista (Director of Organization and Representation, Women in Informal Employment – WIEGO, South Africa)

Photo: Barry Solow / CC BY