On one hand the domestic industries lack skilled manpower, on the other around 1,700 youths fly to the deserts of middle east and Malaysia for employment due to government’s failure in creating decent work and ensuring just remuneration.
Fare wage is a fundamental rights of a worker as the UN is marking the 20th anniversary of Human Rights Day under the theme ’20 Years: Working for your rights’ today.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) also focuses on the challenges facing low-paid workers, which are at the centre of economic and social rights.
“One of the fundamental human rights is the right to a just remuneration that ensures an existence worthy of human dignity,” ILO senior economist Patrick Belser.
The preamble to the Constitution of the ILO identifies the provision of an adequate living wage as one of the conditions for universal and lasting peace based on social justice,” he says, adding that although there is no universally accepted amount that defines such remuneration, it can be described as a wage from full-time work that allows people to lead a decent life considered acceptable by society.
These ideals were crafted in 1919, yet nearly a hundred years later, millions of ‘working poor’ are struggling to make ends meet.
In the developing world like Nepal, in particular, many workers consider that they never really had an adequate living wage. The pattern of economic growth in recent years in developing and emerging economies has not translated into ‘decent work’ for all – work that meets people’s aspirations in their working lives, providing them with a decent income.
Even in advanced economies, where average income is much higher, the aspiration of an adequate living wage is not always fulfilled.
In poor countries, the capacity of enterprises to pay is so low that wages are often lower than what many consider to be sufficient for living in dignity. Part of the solution, Belser says, is for governments to pursue policies that are conducive to economic growth and higher productivity, including improving opportunities for education and training.
“But the fact that there are working poor in rich countries shows that economic growth alone is not enough,” he explains. “Trade unions can also help the low paid get a fair wage.”
However, there is a doubt on politically backed trade unions like in Nepal that has used as a vehicle to power not for the empowerment of the workers.
The ILO supports governments across the world to set minimum wages that take into account not only economic factors, but also the needs of workers and their families,” he added.
“Living wage initiatives, like those launched in the UK and US, as well as the steps taken by multinationals to implement living wages in their supply chains, have been helpful too,” Bslser said, adding that they should, howver, not be seen as substitutes for union rights, minimum wages or collective bargaining.
Studies have shown that paying employees a fair wage can benefit both employees and employers. It motivates staff to work more and better, and contributes to create peace in the workplace and higher productivity.
This year marks the twentieth anniversary of UN Human Rights Day.
The United Nations has highlighted, amongst others, ‘economic, social, cultural, civil, political rights and the right to development’. A fair wage is at the heart of these aspirations.

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