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The minimum wage in Georgia is 90%

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The minimum wage in Georgia is 90%

Georgia has made great progress since the 1990s, a decade marked by civil war, political instability and a struggling economy. But there is one area where the country is literally stuck in that distant past: the minimum wage.

The minimum wage in the private sector in Georgia was last updated in 1999 and currently stands at 20 ₾ ($7.50) per month, making it one of the lowest monthly minimum wages in the world – about enough to several liters of milk.

Despite broad support among the population to raise the minimum wage, successive governments have preferred to let the market decide instead. This is both a cruel abandonment of the state's duty to its people and a blatant violation of international human rights. It is high time to address this.

[Listen to the Caucasus Digest: Surviving on $8 a month: is Georgia on track for a real living wage?]

Georgia's labour practices, including the minimum wage and other socio-economic measures, will be scrutinised in Geneva during the week of 4 March. UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights will begin verifying Georgia’s compliance with one of the most important United Nations treaties, namely the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

The pact states that everyone has the right to “just and favourable working conditions”, including “fair wages” that ensure “a decent living for himself and his family”. The Committee has interpreted This provision requires Member States to set a minimum wage. However, Member States have also repeatedly stressed that it is not enough to simply have a minimum wage: it must also be linked to the cost of living, recognised by law and set at a level that allows workers to live a ‘decent life’.

Currently, Georgia does not meet any of these conditions. The minimum wage was set by presidential decree, not by law, and there is no mechanism to adjust it to the cost of living. And it goes without saying that it does not provide a “decent life”.

Frankly, it is unlikely that anyone in Georgia actually earns 20 rupees a month. Median wage was ₾1,040 ($390) in 2022 and the “unofficial” monthly minimum wage is expected to be closer to 350 ₾ ($130). But unofficial minimum wages can and often are circumvented, hurting female workers. the most. A Study 2022 from The International School of Economics at Tbilisi State University found that 11.9 percent of male and 24.6 percent of female employees earn less than 350 rupees a month. Even more worryingly, 11.7 percent of women and 5.4 percent of men earn less than 250 rupees ($94).

This is below what the government estimates for Georgia. Subsistence level The amount needed to buy enough calories to survive. The abolition of such abusive wage practices is one reason why government regulation of wages is essential. “The market” alone is not enough.

Another reason is to ensure that people earn enough to live in dignity, not just survive. That is why international law explicitly requires that minimum wages provide a “decent living.”

Human Rights Law does not prescribe a magic number for a “decent life,” since both national economic circumstances and perceptions of comfort can vary considerably. Instead, it focuses on, among other things, whether the minimum wage provides people with the rights considered essential under international law: food, healthcare, water, sanitation, housing, clothing, transportation, and so on.

This means that Georgia’s Subsistence level of about 250 ₾ is not a sufficient basis for setting the minimum wage. It is based solely on a basket of foodstuffs — a deep faulty And one at that – and it focuses entirely on physiological survival. A minimum wage that complies with human rights must take more than just nutrition into account.

A better approach — how recently approved by the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights – is for the government to set the minimum wage based on published estimates of the subsistence level or to calculate its own subsistence level. Although there are various methods for calculating the subsistence level, most follow closely The Requirements for a “life worthy of human dignity” as defined in international human rights law.

Current estimates of the minimum living wage in Georgia include: 1,272 ₾ (US$480) per month (2021 estimate by Solidarity Network, a Georgian trade union); 1,706 ₾ (640 USD) per month (Wage Indicator Foundation estimate for 2022) and ₾2,371 (US$890) per month (2021 estimate from the Clean Clothes Campaign, an alliance of nongovernmental organizations and garment industry unions).

Whatever Georgia ultimately decides, one thing is clear: the 1990s are over, and with them the era of the 20 rupee minimum wage. The UN Committee should remind Georgia of its obligations and present a roadmap for setting a minimum wage in consultation with independent workers' unions that respects Georgians' basic human rights and guarantees a decent standard of living.

Read in Russian on SOVA.News.