Living Wages in International Supply Chains and the Capability Approach: Towards a Conceptual Framework
Although the right to a living wage is recognized as a human right, wages in international supply chains, such as the international garment industry, are generally too low to safeguard the well-being of workers and their families. Against this background, in the recent past, a variety of approaches to set living wages have been put forward by NGOs, academics and multi-stakeholder initiatives (see e.g. ACT, 2015; Anker, 2006; FWF, 2011; Miller, 2013; Musiolek, 2011). As a consequence, the international garment industry has seen the emergence of multiple and overlapping standards with considerable differences. We argue that the question of how to set a living wage is strongly related to the question of a decent life. In order to take into account this normative component, Sen’s capability approach (CA) is consulted. Analysing the right to a living wage in terms of capabilities allows identifying what is needed to secure this right, rather than merely declaring it. Moreover, we propose that living wage approaches can be perceived as a particular form of international accountability standards (IAS), since they generally aim at setting standards for multi-national enterprises (MNEs) to voluntarily raise wages in their supply chains. In this paper, we therefore integrate research on IAS with the CA in order to develop a conceptual framework that allows for an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of existing living wage approaches in securing a decent life for workers in international supply chains.
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Stephanie Schrage/Kristin Huber (2016): Living Wages in International Supply Chains and the Capability Approach: Towards a Conceptual Framework, Paper presented at the Cambridge Capability Conference, Cambridge (U.K.) 2016
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