Who should be getting minimum wages?

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In principle, minimum wages should afford adequate protection to all workers in an employment relationship, including women, youth and migrant workers, regardless of their contractual arrangements. Exclusions should be kept to a minimum, particularly in relation to vulnerable categories of workers.

In practice, certain employees are excluded from minimum wage protection for a variety of reasons– for instance, domestic workers, workers in the informal economy, or workers in non-standard forms of employment. Home-based workers or workers in agriculture are also frequently excluded. 

With respect to domestic workers, the ILO Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189) considers that: “Each Member shall take measures to ensure that domestic workers enjoy minimum wage coverage, where such coverage exists, and that remuneration is established without discrimination based on sex” (Article 11).

According to recently adopted Transition from the Informal to the Formal Economy Recommendation, 2015 (No. 204), countries should also progressively extend minimum wage protections, in law and in practice, to workers in the informal economy through the process of formalization.

Minimum wages should also apply to workers in non-standard form of employment, including workers on fixed-term contracts and other forms of temporary work, temporary agency work and other contractual arrangements involving multiple parties, or part-time work.

Public sector employees are often excluded – in whole or in part – from the scope of labour laws, including provisions on minimum wage fixing. However, this does not imply that no minimum wage applies to them since administrative laws or arrangements, which include pay scales, can cover them. Lower pay scales should normally be adjusted to be set no lower than the minimum wage.