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Wage levels are an issue of concern across the globe as individuals, companies and governments wrestle with how wages paid to workers relate to costs of living, corporate and national competitiveness, profitability and broader macroeconomic trends and challenges.
This report examines wages in the tea industry with a focus in three case study areas: Malawi, West Java (Indonesia) and Assam (India). It looks at hired labour on plantations and, in particular, tea pluckers.
Researchers found a number of deep rooted and complex factors keeping wages low. A key problem is that pay is set for the whole sector - there is no difference in pay from one plantation to the next - and that it is pegged to the legal minimum wage which is often well below the level needed for meet a family's basic needs. Other issues include the huge variation in the quality and take up of 'in-kind' benefits such as childcare or housing and the fact that workers, particularly women who make up the majority of the workforce, have little say in negotiations over pay.
Recommendations from the Caspian dialogues include the following:
IATP have consistently argued that trade agreements need to respect and promote human rights, not drive a process of globalisation that privileges commercial interests and pushes public interests aside. This paper concludes that the globalisation enshrined in the free trade and investment agreements of the 1990s and 2000s have led to yet another manifestation of commercial interests trampling human rights - namely land grabs.
This paper is specifically focuses on two forces that IATP argue have contributed significantly to the problem: First, globalisation—more specifically, the deregulation of trade and foreign investment laws, which has greatly eased cross-border capital flows, relaxed the limits on foreign land ownership, and opened markets to agricultural imports. And second, the failures of the international trading system during the food price crisis of 2007-08, which eroded the confidence of food import–dependent countries in international markets as a reliable source of food and fed both speculative investment and investment in actual food production. This loss of confidence was compounded by climate change and the resulting destabilisation of weather patterns, which has resulted in less predictable agricultural production.
Whilst investment in agriculture is welcomed the impact of land grabs has been overwhelmingly negative. They are associated with weak institutional capacity (and sometimes corruption) in the recipient country governments, as well as authoritarian governments in the investors’ home countries, making it hard to bring pressure there for better practices. The communities whose land is leased or bought are not adequately protected.
Four linked policy shifts to create a more stable and transparent international food system are needed: