15 Years WageIndicator and Results

By Paulien Osse, WageIndicator Foundation director, August 2015

Results. That is what we can proudly present after 15 years of hard work. Some of the contributors to this WageIndicator Conference Reader have been part of our rollercoaster ride right from the beginning. They will confirm that we were not sure of the outcome. We did not even know the direction our 2-women initiative from the last days of the last millennium would take. We, Kea Tijdens and my person, certainly had no idea that today we would be overlooking a global playing field of our own making. Nor did we expect the tremendous support by so many from so many different cultures and walks of life.

 

Yet, here we are. As you will leaf through this WageIndicator Conference Reader, you will find that each and every contribution speaks of commitment. All pieced together convey a broad picture of maturity and freshness. The old stem still produces new offshoots. The core is alive! What is this core?

 

A committed team started to calculate actual salary indications for women and men, because it was high in demand but didn’t exist. From wage benchmarks it moved to incorporate VIP incomes, Statutory Minimum Wages and living wage estimates. Since 2 years now all these numbers are lined up under Wages In Context: easy to understand, easy to compare. And that is by far not all the team did with the millions of voluntary contribution from all over the place.

 

The extended team made the scale of operations grow enormously, both of participating countries and benefiting visitors, workers and (small) employers alike. Content-wise we saw the need to include in our sites labor law, which turned out to be a most popular section, as had happened with the pages on Minimum Wage before. Labor law came to the fore not only online, but in many countries offline too, during our so called fact-finding debates. These debates taught us that you should present not just wages, but rules and regulations in context as well. The team responded quickly and now presents labor rights in context. As from 2015, we may even compare and share the most boring part of the labor market: Collective Agreements. We started to turn these - usually highly complicated - paragraphs into playful Lego-blocks. Easy to understand, easy to compare by all. Even the legal people say they like it!

 

Throughout we have given full attention to the position of women on their labor markets, i.e. in all countries. It is not that we set out with that intention: this focus was brought to us by the need we saw, certainly also more sharply because the majority of our team is made up of working women. It tells you also that WageIndicator is interactive: we try to respond to people’s needs immediately. If the simple obligation to pay the legal Minimum Wage is not abided by, we point that out, look up the amount, publish it and - even - provide a means to redress the injustice.

 

Such is our commitment to all who have to make ends meet in the labor markets where we happen to find ourselves and must make sense of the multitude of rules and regulations. We try to understand these ourselves first, in order to be able to share our insights in an easy to read, yet not oversimplified way. And we do that as smart as we can. Because WageIndicator too must survive, as a micro-multinational in a world economy on the fast lane. There is no wizard around to tell us where the world is headed, though we do know by now that our organisation weathered the storm and has matured in the struggle to stay afloat and on course.

 

And check this online:

Contributions to 15 Years of WageIndicator Celebrations - I - IV

PART I - State of our Art in 2015

The state of our art is not only reflected in the design of our websites, in how we present ourselves to the eye – pleasing we hope – but also in the results of our outreach effort and our research. Since we have been pioneering partly uncharted territories, we were bound to receive a lot of flak. We got and get our share. Yet overall, we think we are still on the right track.

Our main field is cyberspace. Our approach is interactive. Learning by doing is typical. Our results are innovative – tried, tested and discarded if they do not stand the test. This first Part reviews the results in facts, figures and pics, by necessity looking back. Yet it highlights too our latest incursions into new territory, the social media in particular. 

PART II -  Some telling Stories

We can do whatever we want. But when nobody hears about it we might as well have saved our energy for a better purpose. Therefore our stories must be told.

This Reader is mainly of a factual nature. Yet some of our ‘old hands’ apparently felt the need to present their contribution from a personal perspective. We gladly honour their gesture and are grateful for their openness. They are joined by one of our latest ‘volunteers’ who has come to reinforce our ranks.   

PART III - Gender Issues Top the List

Kea Tijdens and Paulien Osse are women – and the initiators of WageIndicator. It is no coincidence therefore that gender issues have been prominent in their motivation and selection of items for special attention through outreach and research. The gender focus has been an unremitting part of their efforts over the past 15 years. They certainly are not alone in their drive to improve women’s lots in labor markets worldwide. These need improvement, structurally and consistently.

The following contributions speak of the ways and means to achieve that goal, a goal which seems to retreat as fast over the horizon as we approach it. WageIndicator fully and wholeheartedly participates in the chase. Because mothers an sisters deserve an equal share for jobs well done. 

PART IV - Wages in Context

As the term itself already suggests, Wages in Context is an overriding concept. It encompasses all regular types of income of the working population, from the bottom poverty lines up to the income levels of the highly skilled and well paid employees. Yet, in this section living wages get special attention. It is a hotly debated issue, especially since it seems difficult to ‘fix’ those elusive ‘living wages’.

This Part therefore starts with a FAQ-list. It prominently features living wages next to actual wages, as in the WageIndicator Salary Checks. It explains the WageIndicator-approach and its down to earth way of checking the quality of its data.

Next, it presents the first-ever country comparison in terms of the relationship between living wages and official Minimum Wages-levels.

Moreover it highlights our potential for making wage-data analyses to help promote fair pay as an integral part of fair trade practices.  

Contributions to 15 Years of WageIndicator Celebrations - V - VIII

PART V - Minimum Wages

Why a special section dedicated to Minimum Wages? After all, in our own logic Minimum Wages should rather be presented as part of Wages in Context. Or, alternatively, since Statutory Minimum Wages are ordained by Governments and very often laid down in the law, their proper place would be the next Part, which deals with labour rights, contracts and income.

Therefore, the reasons for a separate full Part in this Reader must be practical by nature. Minimum Wage is and will be for the foreseeable future very important in many working people’s lives, all over the world. We found that out during the past 10 years – ever since WageIndicator really embarked on the road to a global presence. In all participating countries people told us about their plight and were surprised: is there a such a thing as a Minimum Wage? How much is it then? Am I really entitled to it? If so, why don’t I get it? How to make sure I get at least that much – however little it may be?

Enough questions for a whole Reader, let alone just one Part. 

PART VI - Contracts in Legal Context

This Part deals with the steady rise to prominence of labor law throughout all WageIndicator operations. It shows that this growing ‘popularity’ is a reflection of people’s needs, very much like the highly popular Minimum Wage-pages of WageIndicator websites. We measure popularity in terms of visits and queries. Apparently our information fills a gap: people want to know their rights. We tell them what those are, country specific, yet systematic for purposes of international comparison.

A considerable part of this section on Contracts in Legal Context deals with Collective Bargaining Agreements or CBAs. Especially the digitization of CBAs and the build-up of a dedicated database opens new vistas: it is probably quite do-able to treat all CBAs worldwide in a much more systematic fashion – an analogy with the Lego-blocks, with which many of us played as children, elbows its way forward. We tested it for the first time and present the model-result for further elaboration. And that is not all there is to CBAs in this section: they are good news, really.

PART VII - Debates and Dialogues

Debates and dialogues make up the major part of WageIndicator’s offline activities. Debates are usually of a fact-finding nature, while dialogues ideally take place between social partners, i.e. trade unions and employers’ associations. These special events - which they time and again turn out to be when held - are used to systematically generate data as well. Whenever they do, these data are added to the databases collected through voluntary online contributions.

In addition debates and dialogues bring highly valued qualitative input. This input gives surprisingly much direction and meaning to our online activities. The focus on Minimum Wages for example, as well as on labor law, was prompted mainly by the results of such physical encounters with stakeholders in the field. By now WageIndicator has had such stimulating experiences and input from two dozen countries in meetings throughout those countries, in which thousands of individuals wholeheartedly participated.

Read what they have to say – we can give no better advice, nor motivation.

PART VIII - Money, Management and Monitoring

We run WageIndicator like a business. We want to and we have to. Is this just a must? No, it the smart thing to do and can be fun. You learn a lot from best practices.