A “GLOW” (Global Living Organizational Wage): Where We Stand on the Issue of Living Wages
Mary O’Neill Berry, Walter Reichman, John C. Scott, and Stuart C. Carr, End Poverty & Inequality Cluster
Author to whom communications about the manuscript should be directed:
Mary O’Neill Berry, PhD, 1500 Journey’s End Road, Croton, New York 10520, USA
Addressing at least two crucial United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (Number 1, Eradicating Poverty, and Number 8, Ensuring Employment and Decent Work) is a movement with a bright future. Project GLOW (Global Living Organizational Wage) continues to gather global interest, and momentum, from Pretoria and Auckland to Geneva and Washington, DC at the recent American Psychological Association (APA) Convention.
Project GLOW is a unique global network of research service and teaching hubs (SIOP, 2017). GLOW began in 2016, prompted by the prior work on poverty eradication by Stuart C. Carr at Massey University, Auckland, New Zealand. As pointed out in a superb summary of the project’s aims and ambit, and links to the United Nations SDGs (Scott, 2017), in 2016, half of all people classified in the world as “extremely poor” were not unemployed but working, in jobs. Dealing with “working poverty” has become a strategic objective for poverty reduction. The road to achieving this is by establishing true living sustainable wages that enable people (and organizations) to not only survive but, more importantly, to flourish and thrive. This emphasis on shared prosperity is emphasized in SDGs 9 and 10, for example.
To date by comparison, most Living Wage campaigns have been econometrically based and largely fail to take account of psychological, business, and broader societal benefits (for an exception, see for instance, http://laane.org/?s=Examining+the+Evidence).
No surprise, then, that employers, driven by the profit motive, continue to be reluctant to raise wages beyond what local markets demand. However, a growing body of research by industrial-organizational psychologists is exploring in more empirical detail the costs and benefits, human and material in terms of jobs and job growth for example, to different wage levels, including to setting wages at a legal minimum level, cost of living level, and quality of living level. Uniquely too, the project is planned to run for 50 years, to examine the intergenerational impacts of living wages on our descendants’ education, on health for the future and on sustainability across all 17 of the SDGs. GLOW has implemented the network partnerships (SDG17) to at least begin this work partly in response to the setting of minimum and living wages by economic fiat instead of in consultation with the I-O psychology of what the differences in income actually mean for everyday life, work life, and organizational sustainability. Indeed, a recent Treasury report from NZ warned that implementing the campaign living wage would risk job losses by sending companies and SMEs to the wall—even though the assessment did not apparently include any I-O research from the past 50 or so years on potential upsides from job fairness, satisfaction, commitment, engagement, retention, and so on. This may be as much a problem of our own making as from the dominance of macroeconomics in the policy space. GLOW is intended to offset that silence with evidence.
Project GLOW defines a living wage as a wage range in which both quality of life and organizational efficiency may undergo a significant upswing but below which people’s inherent agency (and jobs growth) may languish in poverty traps. GLOW seeks to answer the question, using purchasing power parity, “Is there a global living wage that enables people, organizations and communities to prosper and thrive?” It also advocates for a global living wage throughout the planet by informing wage policy setting at social, organizational, sector, national, and international supply chain levels, and informs job creation, thereby reducing unemployment.
Project GLOW now has at least one hub in more than 25 countries, spanning trade routes and cities within and between them. Hubs represent interdisciplinary, cross-sector partnerships between work and social sciences, practitioners, scholars, and community groups, including professional and labor associations. As mentioned above, it has an extended time span of 50 years. Thus, it is intended to span multiple generations with the capacity to examine the longer term dynamics of living wages on income mobility and shared prosperity. In keeping with this multigenerational perspective, GLOW places a strong emphasis on building capacity for the future, for example, by creating applied research and service opportunities for younger generations of I-O students, scholars, researchers, and practitioners.
A few examples of recent activities provide a good overview of the potential impact of Project GLOW. By invitation, living wage research was presented in South Africa and New Zealand at the South Africa Science Congress, a regional and international conference focused on evidence-based policy development. The presentation, by Molefe Maleka and Ines Meyers, made front page news in Pretoria (Nkosi, 2016). Colleagues in Thailand are working with a number of stakeholder groups, including policy makers, on a Buddhist Economics perspective on the living wage. A cluster of hubs entitled “Money and Freedom,” based in Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines have presented at the Asian Association of Social Psychology Conference (Auckland, NZ) on their research on the living wage aspect of cash transfers to single mothers in the Manila slums and across low-income groups to ascertain the social and business benefits, as well as shared prosperity, from living wage policy and levels of income/wages (Carr, 2017).
In New York City, Drs. Berry and Carr copresented/participated in a public forum organized by Fordham University on “Positive I-O Psychology: Local and Global,” showing how Project GLOW benefits humanity in the USA and globally; the ensuing discussion suggested an expansion of the living wage concept to include not only the monetary wage itself, but other contributors to quality of life, such as employee benefits, particularly in the health and education arenas.
Also in New York City, Project GLOW leaders in SIOP submitted a statement to the United Nations 2017 Commission for Social Development (CSD), titled “The Sustainable Development Goals Need to Build a Social and Business Case for Living Wages,” which became part of the official record of the meeting and was circulated in accordance with paragraphs 36 and 37 of Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31. In addition, a panel event held in conjunction with CSD included a presentation delivered by Professor Molefe. The event, titled “Decent Work as the Most Important Strategy for Poverty Eradication,” focused on decent work as the pathway out of poverty to achieve sustainable development for all. Professor Molefe’s presentation described “Partnerships to Foster Living Wages: Project GLOW.” Dr. Walter Reichman was the discussant at the session, and his remarks included the following cogent points. Dr. Reichman has found mixed results in the literature on living wage, with as many studies that showed an increase in unemployment as found an improvement or no change in employment when minimum wage was instituted. However, the case for pursuing a living wage can be made stronger by finding a tipping point: the point where wages and organizational sustainability are both guaranteed. This tipping point has yet to be established, and indeed will vary from country to country (even within countries) and perhaps also from industry to industry. Determining this tipping point will be a key focus of future Project GLOW research and will provide an invaluable tool in the toolbox for ensuring a living wage for all.
Carr, S. C., Chair. (2017). Proceedings of Asian Association of Social Psychology (AASP) Conference. Money and Freedom: The 2017 AASP Summer School Project on the Living Wage. Auckland, New Zealand.
Nkosi, N. (2016). Living wage sought. Pretoria News, 9 December, p. 1.
Scott, J. C. (2017). Project GLOW (Global Living Organizational Wage). Presented by invitation at SIOP 2017 Conference, Shaken N’ Stirred (viewable at: http://www.massey.ac.nz/project-glow)
SIOP. (2017). Statement submitted to the United Nations Commission for Social Development by Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, a nongovernmental organization in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. (Project GLOW, 2016). The Sustainable Development Goals need to build a Social and Business Case for Living Wage. CSocD55_UN2016.pdf (185 KB)