The momentum behind living wage and living income

Civil society, donors, and industry are increasingly recognizing that they have had limited, wide-scale impact in increasing the income of farmers in many agricultural commodities, whether smallholders or estate workers. Today, farmers do not earn a decent standard of living from their labour. Most interventions were related to productivity but lacked consideration for the cost of living. In response, there is an emerging debate on living wage and living income that has appeared on the agenda of leaders in public and private spheres.  Living wage is the remuneration received for a standard workweek by a worker in a particular place sufficient to afford a decent standard of living for the worker and her or his family. Elements of a decent standard of living include food, water, housing, education, health care, transportation, clothing, and other essential needs including provision for unexpected events.

Today, there are over 25 benchmarks worldwide that have estimated the cost of a decent living for a estate worker or smallholder farming household in a particular place, often at province-level. Many benchmarks exist in key agricultural sectors like coffee, cocoa, tea, bananas, and flowers and producing regions such as Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Ethiopia, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Vietnam and others.  Benchmarks have also been calculated in textiles and manufacturing sectors.

There are 3 main components that comprise research on living wage:

  1. Calculate or use a living wage benchmark
  2. Carry out a gap analysis in relation to current wage and benefits
  3. Develop an action plan with measures that work towards a living wage

Since 2017, Aidenvironment has been advising clients on how to work on living wage and living income, from calculating benchmarks to developing strategies to the close the gap. On living income, we have developed strategies for the cocoa sector in Cote d’Ivoire and the rubber sector in Indonesia. On living wage, we have worked on palm oil and coffee in Africa.

Living wage and living income define ambitious targets for civil society, donors, and industry to work towards in improving the livelihoods of workers and farmers. Reach out to Aidenvironment to explore how your organization can contribute, contact Jan Willem Molenaar.