Al Jazeera, Dr. Jason Hickel argues that a global minimum wage is not only just, but doable:
Because of neoliberal economic policies imposed over the past few decades, companies now have the power to rove the globe in search of what CEOs refer to as the “best investment conditions”.
So workers are made to face a stark choice: accept dangerous conditions and minimum wages of $0.21 per hour, or lose their jobs. The constant threat of replacement keeps workers cheap and docile, to the tremendous benefit of corporate profits.
The problem with globalisation is that capital has been globalised while the rules that protect people from it have not. If we’re going to have a global labour market, it stands to reason that we need a global system of labour standards [and] a global minimum wage.
Not only is it now conceivable to have a global minimum wage system, it’s also – for the first time in history – quite doable. The UN’s International Labour Organization has already proven that it has the will and the capacity to govern such a system.
To put it bluntly, the global labour market is rigged in the interest of multinational companies; it is designed to allow them to pump value out of human bodies – mostly poor, brown, female bodies – as efficiently as possible. Those bodies generate the enormous wealth that gets pocketed as profits and CEO bonuses.
Set the global minimum wage at a fixed percent – economist Thomas Palley recommends 50 percent – of each country’s median wage, so it would be tailored to local economic conditions and costs of living. As wages increase across the spectrum, the floor would move up automatically. All countries would be treated equally, and countries that presently enjoy a comparative advantage through cheap labour would retain that advantage.
What would a global minimum wage mean for consumers? Not much, it turns out. Economist Robert Pollin has found that doubling the wages of sweatshop workers in Mexico would raise the price of clothes sold in the US by only 1.8 percent.
When we buy the things that we need to sustain and enjoy our lives, we should be able to be confident that we are not colluding in the exploitation of other human beings who toil in near-slavery conditions.