Minimum Wage . . . Living Wage. Will Ever The Twain Meet?

diagram describing inputs to a living wage, including cost of living, family size, number of workers and statutory payments
Calculating a Living Wage photo by Guest2625 is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0
One model for calculating a living wage.

“Minimum wage” is a common name governments use in their quest for wage “fairness.” It is the lowest wage legally permissible to pay a regular employee.1

As for the term “living wage,” it is much less frequently discussed as a concept. Nonetheless it is both informally and formally considered, described and measured by a variety of means to specify the income necessary for an individual or family to stay alive — sheltered, fed and healthy.

Needless to say, the definition of “living wage” is unimportant to those with low and no incomes. Those less fortunate folk all too often live its absence, through homelessness, starvation, or ill health that is unaffordable to treat.

What is most disconcerting about these two standards for basic human survival? The fact that the minimum wage is almost invariably below that of the living wage. What collective insensitivity to the plight of others allows the populations of countries to allow a minimum wage that is less than the income essential to survival?

To his credit, Ireland’s Taoiseach Micheál Martin chose Christmas 2020 to explore merging the minimum wage with the living wage. Read more in DublinLive: Low-paid workers to see wages go up by €2.20 an hour as government consider living wage


  1. Some categories of employment are not required to comply the minimum wage. Examples are agricultural workers and people working in tech industries.

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