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, and Tandiwe Gross

Fair Wage Strategies in a Global Economy

  • Oct 2017
  • 2-4 hours/week
  • English
  • Interdisciplinary

About this course

The course will be launched with a Facebook Live Discussion on 24 October at 13h UTC with experts from IndustriALL and the ILO: click here to register and join the live discussion.

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 is free of charge with access to all material in the audit track.

There is the option to get Statement of Participation for 29 € or a University Certificate for 49 € after passing an online exam. Participants from non-OECD countries can apply for a scholarship to study towards a Certificate of Achievement awarded by the Berlin School of Economics and Law and the Global Labour University for free. Trade unionists from OECD countries can apply for a scholarship if they have a trade union recommendation letter. To apply for a scholarship, please enrol in the course and send your scholarship application to online@global-labour-university.org until 22 November 2017. (click here for details on the scholarship application)

You can also visit the Global Labour University Online Academy to find other free online courses on International Labour Standards and Decent Work in Global Supply Chains and join the GLU Online Education Facebook Group.

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 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 (24 October- 1 November)

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 (2-8 November)

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 (8-15 November)

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 (16-22 November)

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 (23-29 November)

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 (30 November- 6 December 2017)

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.

Study week for certificate track participants (7 – 13 December 2017)

Exam period for certificate track participants (14 – 20 December 2017)

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. 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 (Project coordinator, Global Labour University)

Tandiwe Gross (Associate expert, International Labour Organization)

International experts

Jenny Holdcroft (Assistant General Secretary, IndustriALL)

Guy Ryder (Director General, International Labour Organization)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jane Barrett (Director of Organization and Representation of WIEGO)

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

Photo: Barry Solow / CC BY