8 Jul 2020

The fight for fair incomes just took a step forward

The fight to secure fair incomes for workers and farmers has taken a significant step forward with the development of a new tool to measure how much they need to earn in order to enjoy a decent standard of living.

Calculating living incomes and living wages requires time consuming, costly field research in multiple regions - meaning only some of the locations where Fairtrade’s 1.7 million small-scale farmers and workers live have been covered so far. Now, however, there is a faster, cheaper and more scalable way to establish the all-important ‘reference values’ which show how much money is needed for workers to earn a living wage, and producers to have a living income.

“Living wages and incomes vary from country to country and between cities and rural areas. If we don’t have reliable figures based on the same methodology, it’s hard to compare results and measure whether we are making progress.” says Wilbert Flinterman, Fairtrade International’s Senior Advisor for Workers’ Rights and Trade Union Relations.

“The new reference values are an important next step in Fairtrade’s work to measure and improve living wages and living incomes for small-scale farmers and agricultural workers around the world,” says Flinterman. “So far we have relied on extensive living wage studies - based on the Anker methodology - which combine desk analysis and primary data collection on location. Reference values are not intended to replace fully-fledged Anker studies, but they can provide a global overview of low income and low wage hotspots, which will then enable Fairtrade to prioritise action and rally support to tackle them.”

Compatible with the locally specific living wage studies, the new reference values – also developed by global wage experts Richard and Martha Anker - will cover an entire country rather than one specific location, and will calculate the differences between rural and urban areas. They will be especially useful in identifying ‘hot spot’ countries where prevailing wages and incomes are very low compared to the needs of farmers and workers.

The Anker reference values have been developed with support from the Global Living Wage Coalition and the Living Income Community of Practice. As a member of both groups, Fairtrade International was instrumental in initiating and supporting the project, together with GIZ.

“The new methodology could significantly increase the number of countries for which credible and internationally comparable living wage and living income estimates are available,” says Martha Anker. “They are much less expensive to produce than full studies, but are nonetheless still internationally comparable and easily updated every year. They will provide valuable new information for many developing countries.”

“Living wages and living incomes are needed to ensure decent work and decent living standards for workers,” adds Richard Anker. “These reference values will enable discussions about living wages and living income to take place in countries where it has not yet been possible to organise and fund a full living wage or living income study.”

The first Anker reference values and country profiles will cover Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Peru and Rwanda. An additional 16 reference values and country profiles will be released over the remainder of 2020 - meaning more Fairtrade countries of origin will be covered than ever before.

“The small-scale farmers and agricultural workers who produce the food we all enjoy deserve a fair income,” says Flinterman. “Unfortunately our data shows clearly that despite growing the crops for supply chains worth billions on the global market, many workers continue to live in poverty. It is unacceptable that people who grow our food, would have trouble feeding themselves.”

A fact sheet and full technical briefing on the Anker reference values can be downloaded here. You can also download our infographic.