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Study aims to find human impact of living wage

Wednesday October 1, 2014

Study aims to find human impact of living wage

The final stage of Massey University’s living wage research project kicks off today with the launch of the ‘Waging Well’ survey, which will focus on what a living wage means for workers.

The survey is the third phase of the research project, which has included a series of stakeholder meetings with government, employers, union and community organisations to map out policy considerations, alongside in-depth case studies of companies that have recently introduced a living wage.

“The Waging Well survey is predominantly concerned with employees and what a living wage means to them in terms of job satisfaction and achieving a decent standard of living for them and their family,” says project co-director, Professor Stuart Carr.

“We don’t think these questions have ever been answered in a directly empirical way. When it comes to the everyday impact of introducing a living wage, there have been a lot of assumptions and our aim is to start to probe those assumptions in a genuinely exploratory and, we hope, useful way.”

Colleague and project co-director, Professor Jane Parker, says the survey will help identify any potential “pivot points” at which workers feel they are earning a wage that allows them to have a decent quality of living, versus not managing to make ends meet.

She says the company case studies have already thrown up some interesting and unexpected insights, including that small and medium-sized firms are becoming accredited living wage employers.

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“The common wisdom is that SMEs can’t afford it and it introduces too much red tape for them to deal with. In some cases, that has not turned out to be true – and that larger organisations face additional complexities when seeking to implement an initiative.”

The case studies also show that offering a living wage is not just about money.

“One company found that when they moved staff up to a living wage, some of them chose to reduce their hours,” Professor Parker says. “They thought about the extra pay in terms of work/life balance and recognised that there’s a point at which they can improve their lives and still have adequate income.”

Professor Carr says the Waging Well survey will shed light on how a living wage impacts people at a personal level by comparing those who do earn one to those who don’t. A key feature of the survey is its interactivity, inlcuding ‘mood maps’, and participants will have the opportunity to stay in contact with the process through a voluntary follow-up in six months.

“We’ve got an understanding of the employer perspective from our case studies and stakeholder forums. Now, we’re looking for the human impact and individual experiences, as well as the economic or efficiency point of view,” he says. “We’d like as many people as possible to take the time to do it.”

The Waging Well survey takes only five minutes to complete and can be accessed online at http://bit.ly/waging-well. The survey will be open until midnight of 31 October.

The living wage scoping, engagement and assessment project is being managed by MPOWER, the Massey People, Organisation, Work and Employment Research Group at Massey University. The project’s findings will be issued in late 2014. For more information visit: http://bit.ly/mpower-website

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