Most people work in order to earn money. Yet in many parts of the world, access to adequate and regular wages is not guaranteed. In numerous countries, non-payment of wages has led to huge wage arrears, and wages are sometimes paid in bonds, manufactured goods, or even alcohol. Large wage arrears have been linked to debt bondage and slavery. In other countries, workers face loss of wages when their employer goes bankrupt. Before the 2008 economic crisis, the link between wages and labour productivity was already broken in many countries and this contributed to the creation of global economic imbalances. The Global Jobs Pact, adopted by the ILO Conference in 2009, made several references to minimum wages as one of the means of responding to such crisis, and Convention No. 131 is the only ILO instrument to which it refers specifically in that regard. When wages rise in line with productivity increases, they are both sustainable and create a stimulus for further economic growth by increasing households’ purchasing power. ILO standards on wages address these problems by providing for regular payment of wages, the fixing of mini- mum wage levels, and the settlement of unpaid wages in case of employer insolvency.
Selected relevant ILO instruments
- Labour Clauses (Public Contracts) Convention, 1949 (No. 94) - [ratifications]
Aims at ensuring respect for minimum labour standards in the execution of public contracts.
- Protection of Wages Convention, 1949 (No. 95) - [ratifications]
Wages shall be paid in legal tender at regular intervals; in cases where partial payment of wages is in kind, the value of such allowances should be fair and reasonable. Workers shall be free to dispose of their wages as they choose. In cases of employer insolvency, wages shall enjoy a priority in the distribution of liquidated assets.
- Minimum Wage Fixing Convention, 1970 (No. 131) - [ratifications]
Requires ratifying states to establish a minimum wage fixing machinery capable of determining and periodically reviewing and adjusting minimum wage rates having the force of law.
- Protection of Workers' Claims (Employer's Insolvency) Convention, 1992 (No. 173) - [ratifications]
Provides for the protection of wage claims in insolvency and bankruptcy by means of a privilege or through a guarantee institution.
- Further relevant instruments
- Also relevant:
Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951 (No. 100) - [ratifications]
Lays down the principle of equal remuneration for men and women workers for work of equal value.
- Labour Clauses (Public Contracts) Convention, 1949 (No. 94) and Recommendation (No. 84): A practical guide (2008) - [PDF]
- General Survey concerning Labour Clauses in Public Contracts (2008) - [PDF]
- General Survey on Protection of Wages (2003) - [PDF]
- General Survey on Minimum Wages (1992) - [PDF]
- Inclusive Labour Markets, Labour Relations and Working Conditions Branch (INWORK): webpage on Wages