The World Today for August 27, 2021

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WORLD

Brother, Can You Spare a Wage Hike?

An Iranian immigrant, Zahra Hossein Zadeh, earns $19 an hour cleaning hotel rooms in Sydney, Australia. “Honestly, I don’t have any financial problems,” Zadeh told the Washington Post.

When she learned about the US federal minimum wage of $7.25, she was surprised. The Australian minimum wage is around $15 an hour.  “That’s really sad,” said Zadeh. “Seven dollars? You can’t even buy your lunch for that.”

As American politicians debate the pros and cons of increasing the minimum wage in the US, other countries are moving forward with laws that give the lowliest workers a hand. As the Pew Research Center explained, some raise wages through legislative action. Others use automatic increases. Still, others depend on collective bargaining with unions. Each case demonstrated how politics and economics are entwined.

In Spain, where governments have been grappling with the Eurozone financial crisis for more than a decade, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has overseen a 29 percent increase in the minimum wage, new rules that give permanent contracts to temporary workers as well as labor rights for gig workers who often complain of wielding too little power in their jobs, Politico reported. Almost 240,000 people have seen their wages increase.

In Britain, the National Living Wage increases annually in April according to one’s age and experience. Importantly, British officials enforce it, recently issuing a list of 200 businesses that shortchanged workers by not paying minimum wages, reported Reuters.

Topping the list, ironically, was the employee-owned Waitrose supermarkets and John Lewis department stores. The company issued a statement saying the list was unfair because it did not consider how wages were smoothed out over time so that employees received a similar amount with every paycheck. Meanwhile, a report in openDemocracy argued that the list did not adequately demonstrate how big tech companies like Amazon, Deliveroo and Uber allegedly violated minimum wage laws.

Criticism of government empowering underhanded businesses compelled authorities in Qatar to establish a monthly minimum wage of $274 and abolish a rule that forced workers to obtain their employer’s permission to change jobs, Al Jazeera wrote. The moves came after human rights groups shed light on the mistreatment of migrant workers building the facilities for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

China appears to be flirting with the notion of a maximum wage. Recently in his speeches, Chinese President Xi Jinping has increasingly deployed the term “common prosperity” while officials have floated proposals to tax high earners and redistribute income in order to reduce income inequality, reported Bloomberg.

Whether or not one agrees with those ideas, raising incomes for the poorly paid seems to be something whose time has come.

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