Logofigaro 1 2There will never be a European

 minimum wage

Macron salaireThe "European minimum wage" advocated by French President Macron could be a hollow slogan

Le Figaro/Tribune by Francis Journot, published march 11, 2019 - While in his letter to Europeans, French President Emmanuel Macron advocated a "European minimum wage", Francis Journot believes that this proposal is inconceivable, and explains that it is only on a global scale that it is possible to imagine such a system.

In his manifesto "for a European renaissance" published on 4 March in the 28 EU countries, the French President Emmanuel Macron advocated "a European minimum wage, adapted to each country and discussed collectively each year". 22 countries already have a minimum wage ranging from 260 to 2,000 euros, which does not always guarantee decent living conditions, and conventional minima in countries without a minimum wage sometimes provide their workers with acceptable incomes. The heterogeneity of wages within the EU is therefore undeniable. Yes, but the slogan "European minimum wage" which appeared in the 1990s to announce a new social Europe and which is now being recycled by Emmanuel Macron, is not a project in its own right.

There will be no more European minimum wage than Asian or African minimum wage 

In a globalised world, it is essential to understand these issues as a whole. Competition between low-cost countries is global. Also, few countries would tolerate economic interference in the name of wage homogenisation in the EU, which could not only reduce their competitiveness towards and with their European neighbours but also increase their wage cost differential with more distant countries (for example Ethiopia with sometimes monthly wages of 40 euros for nearly 200 hours worked). On Saturday, March 9, the new CDU president Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (AKK), and perhaps future chancellor of a Germany that has many of its subcontractors in lower-cost eastern european countries, obviously expressed her disagreement. 

On the other hand, at a time when everyone is concerned about the rise in inequality and the damage consumerism is causing to the environment, States could, within the framework of a global consensus, advocated in the concept of the "International Convention for a Global Minimum Wage", be more inclined to take a step towards a more virtuous model together. 

After the First World War, the world minimum wage was one of the first projects of the ILO (International Labour Organisation), created in 1919 under the aegis of the Treaty of Versailles. Researchers most certainly quickly identified the most obvious ways at first glance, a global minimum wage based on a proportion of each country's median wage or income (50 or 60% often cited) and the living wage more or less close. These proposals have since been taken up by the defenders of the global minimum wage and by Emmanuel Macron today. But it can be assumed that ILO economists became aware of certain risks before the 1928 Convention. Indeed, the inclusion of a high or low median wage in the calculation of a local minimum wage does not guarantee that a State can then be able to cope in certain cases with an increase in the remuneration of its civil servants or that the inflation rate that could result from a generalisation of the minimum wage is contained and does not aggravate poverty situations. The danger of generating unrest and the bankruptcy of some states has certainly tempered the desire for social progress and encouraged caution. Also the Convention concerning the Creation of Minimum Wage-Fixing Machinery left it to the signatory States: "Each Member which ratifies this Convention shall be free to decide the nature and form of the minimum wage-fixing machinery, and the methods to be followed in its operation". 99 countries have ratified a convention that has not prevented inequality from growing. The global minimum wage has never seen the light of day. 

The International Convention for a Global Minimum Wage project was first published in 2013 and now benefits from a global network of 3000 economists who know the proposals. Among these are many researchers and professors from prestigious American universities (Harvard, Stanford, Yale, MIT, Columbia, Berkeley and many others) but also several hundred economists working in international institutions such as the UN, WTO, IMF or ILO. President junckerThis project, which could be the only viable option for a global or European minimum wage, was sent on 19 February 2019 to the President of the European Commission Jean Claude Juncker. The proposal highlighted the difficulty of creating a European minimum wage outside a broader global minimum wage framework and suggested that the EU should take part in achieving this ambitious objective alongside international institutions. President Juncker has instructed the Commission's Director General for Employment and Social Affairs, Mr Joost Korte, to study the points raised. This measured concept with several levels of compatibility, offering a secure progressiveness and based on multiple parameters, would considerably reduce the risks of economic dysfunctions that could be feared when setting up a minimum wage. The theme of the European minimum wage advocated by Emmanuel Macron is certainly intended above all to attract voters concerned about social progress, but it is not certain that the choice of a minimum wage model that has proved impossible to implement for nearly a century is the right one.  

Francis JOURNOT   International Convention for a Global Minimum Wage

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