Defining the ‘living wage’ bananas* want farmers to be paid.

When doing the background research for the MoCC banana card (see below), we came a cross these definitions of ‘survival’ and ‘sustainable’ wages in a 2004 report on The real wage situation of male and female workers in eleven banana plantations in Costa Rica, in comparison to a sustainable living wage (link: p.11-12). The research was undertaken by Costa Rica’s Association of Labour Promotion Services (ASEPROLA) and Union of Agricultural Plantation Workers for the UK NGO Bananalink. We found the report on the Make Fruit Fair website. Its definitions of different kinds of wages should be useful in any classroom discussion in which students are asked to look at and/or research followthethings.com examples. It’s not only about the amount of money that people are paid, but what they can do with it…

The Centre for Reflection, Education and Action Inc (CREA) defines four levels of wages according to the categories of ‘survival wage’, ‘wage allowing for short-term planning’ and ‘sustainable living wage’.

In the first category, the marginal survival wage is not enough to cover the adequate basic needs. Even though it is enough to avoid hunger, it can lead to malnutrition, illnesses and probably early death.

Secondly, there is the basic survival wage, enough to meet immediate needs, including basic food, second-hand clothing, minimum shelter and energy to cook, but little else.

Thirdly, is a wage allowing for short-term planning, covering basic survival needs as well as the possibility of a small surplus income that allows for minimum planning. Such minimum planning allows improvement of survival, only from the payday until the next wage. Occasionally, it is possible to buy other basic products.

Fourthly, is the sustainable living wage, which allows workers to cover satisfactorily all their basic needs: food, clothes, housing, energy, transport, health services and education. It also allows the participation in cultural activities such as births and other religious festivals: celebration of First Communion, weddings, christenings, funerals, etc. With this wage, it is possible to save a small amount to plan future purchases of other products and the fulfilment of other needs that may arise.

Additionally, a sustainable living wage allows enough “discretional income” so that the worker can participate in the establishment of small businesses or activities in their communities, contributing also to the development of cultural and civic activities. In this sense, the level of wage makes long-term planning possible. 

What we also like is the Make Fruit Fair’s short animation in which bananas and pineapples want YOU to take action on this. They have seen it all…

*and pineapples

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