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Fair wage, an achievable implementation

Fair wage, an achievable implementation?

Pr. Dr. Michel-Pierre Chelini (Catholic University of Paris/University of Artois, Arras)
Catholic University of Paris/University of Artois, Arras
Catholic University of Paris
Gefördert durch
Catholic University of Paris/University of Artois, Arras
Vom - Bis
05.10.2023 - 06.10.2023
CHELINI Michel-Pierre, History and Geography, University of Artois North of France

Wages represent approximately 40% of GDP worldwide and affect 1.5 billion people at work. But is their salary fair? The symposium questions the possibility of defining, implementing and evaluating a fair wage, according to qualifications and responsibilities in the workplace. The analysis will be multidisciplinary, economic, social, political, historical and cultural.

Fair wage, an achievable implementation?

Dear colleagues
Here a symposium that might interest some of you
Best regards

Michel-Pierre Chelini, Economic History, University of Artois, Arras, France
Christine Noël-Lemaître, Philosophy, University of Aix-Marseille, France
Ciprian Panzaru, Sociology, University of Timisoara, Romania
Muriel Perisse, Economics, University of Artois, Arras, France

Wages are important and form 40% of global GDP. In advanced countries, they represent 50% of GDP, two-thirds of companies' added value and about as much of gross primary household income. They are increasing with economic development and on the planet, the importance of employees is increasing and reflects the gradual institutionalization of the labour market. In the choice of a profession for young people, the salary represents one of the elements of the decision, even if the latter takes into account other components such as the regional training offer, the cultural habits of the family, and the conditions of work. etc. Salaries and wages, which concern 80 to 90% of working people in advanced countries and 30 to 40% of those in emerging countries, are very diversified and generally organized in established or implicit salary grids with numerous classifications according to qualification, seniority and responsibilities and it is generally accepted that engineers, for example, are paid more than unskilled workers. However, this dispersion is increasingly questioned: between the upper and lower deciles (D9/D1) or percentiles (C99/C10), between juniors and seniors, and especially between men and women (from 5% to 35% depending on the country).
Although a large part of the gaps can be explained by differences in diplomas, jobs or working hours, this diversity questions the intellectual world and the society since the 19th century and the industrial revolution (Ricardo, Marx) as well as the contemporary public in its relationship to equality. In fact, is it a statistical dispersion with classic and identifiable biases or real and factual inequalities? The treatment and evaluation of this subject are not neutral and can direct societies towards turbulent dissatisfaction in the event of worsening inequalities or prepare the ground for a certain social appeasement in the case of wage remediation policy.
Can a fair compensation system be both a solution to the feeling of growing pay inequality and to more balanced growth? A fair wage would be a wage that satisfies four requirements at the same time: social justice and equity, economic performance and productivity, the agreement of the parties concerned (employer, employees, union and public authorities) and a decent standard of living. Assigned to an employee, it must be able to apply to all employees in the same situation. The fair wage does not exclude the hierarchy of wages in relation to qualifications and responsibilities. In this case, fair wages are diversified: a minimum wage for an unskilled worker, an average wage for a skilled worker or a ceiling wage for a higher management salary. The problem of a fair wage concerns a fair remuneration system rather than a salary taken in isolation and requires taking into account the monetary wage as much as the salary package.
Historically since the 1950s, we can cite companies that have practiced a dynamic social policy intended to support direct wages (Renault, Siemens, Michelin, IKEA, Unilever, Astra), States that have sought to operate redistribution through taxation or public expenditure in situations of potentially significant wage gap (Scandinavian countries, Canada) or authoritarian political regimes which have endeavoured to reduce the wage scale sharply (socialist economies 1917-1991) with fairly negative collateral effects. Since the 2000s, a general demand for equity (trade, work, products) has spread in public opinion and networks of actors promoting work and fair wages have developed.
The rapid development of emerging countries, led by China, raises questions on this subject from a global perspective. What is the historical importance of these systems, their impact and can we draw up a form of balance sheet? Or are they very specific situations, difficult to reproduce and transpose?

This project is part of a series of conferences (France, Morocco, Uruguay, Russia, Romania, Netherlands, Malaysia, United States, Japan etc.) carried out by an international research network, founded in 2015 and counting around forty teacher-researchers (in around twenty countries), entitled WAGE for Wage Analysis in a Globalizing Environment. Our work focuses on the evolution of wages in the world since 1950 and their link with globalization (increase or not of inequalities?).
At the end of 2023, we are publishing a general work on Wages and Globalisation, first Results, nourished by communications at the 2015, 2018 and 2022 sessions of the World Economic History Congress and, at a similar timing, another work on African Wages since 1960.

Among the very many aspects that could be studied, we will mainly retain four axes that could each constitute a half-day for conference.
1. Theories and representations of fair wages
2. Hierarchy/differentiation of salaries (wage grids, steps, interdecile gaps, junior-senior, women-men, by sector, etc.)
3. Fair wage companies practices, European social labour market
4. Public pay equity policies: minimum wages? age and gender gap ? education and training improvement

Interested scholars have to send a short summary (one page) of their communication project in French or English with a short CV before June 15, 2023 to the following email addresses:,,

The symposium is scheduled in French and English at the Catholic Institute of Paris on October 5 and 6, 2023
Our budget is limited: each speaker has to try to fund his travel and accommodation with his laboratory or research establishment. We will provide meals and refreshments on site. If funds remain available, we will try to reimburse part of the travel.
For American colleagues, whom we would be happy to see in presence, the use of video should make it possible to communicate remotely without having to incur travel costs.
The goal then being to publish a book on the subject with the main communications within a reasonable time (2024, at the latest 2025), an early finalized preparation of your texts can save everyone time. For the symposium itself in October 2023, it would be necessary to provide a fairly developed version of your presentation.
This is the first symposium in a series, which will be followed by others

February 15, 2023: launch of the call for papers
June 15, 2023: end of the call for papers
July 15, 2023: establishment of the final program
October 5-6, 2023: conference. Institut Catholique de Paris, 19-21, rue de Vaugirard, Paris 6e,


Provisional program

Thursday 5 October, morning 9.30-12.30
Theories and representations of fair wages
9.30. General introduction: Michel-Pierre Chelini, Pr. University of Artois, Arras, The salary question and its complexity
10.00. Sandrine Frémeaux (Pr. Audiencia, Nantes), Christine Noël-Lemaître (MCF, Aix-Marseille, Philosophy), What is fair compensation? what Thomas Aquinas' concept of fair wages teaches us
10.45. Break
11.00. [Video] Donald Stabile (Pr. of Economics, College St-Mary of Maryland, USA), The living wage: lessons from the history of economic thought,
11.30. Ciprian Panzaru (Pr, Sociology, University of Timisoara, Romania), Sociological approach of wages
12.00. General Discussion

Thursday, October 5, afternoon. 14.30-17.30
Hierarchy and differentiation of salaries
14.30. Judith Niehues (Economist, Institut der Deutschen Wirtschaft/Köln, Germany), Public opinion and wages
15.00. Muriel Perisse (Pr. Economics, University of Artois, Arras), Salary scales in post-communism China, a less egalitarian system?
15.45. Break
16.00. INSEE representative (awaiting response)
16.30. (waiting for a response)
General Discussion 17.00

Friday, October 6, morning. 9.30-12.30
The practices of fair wage companies, the “fair wage” movement

9.30. Daniel Vaughan-Whitehead (Economist, ILO, Geneva, Sciences Po), The “Fair wage” network, the role of the ILO in the fair wage movement
10.00. Sheila Blackburn (Senior Fellow History University of Liverpool, UK), A fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work? sweated labor and the origins of minimum wage legislation in Britain,
10.45. Break
11.00. [Video] Dan Graff (Pr. History, University of Notre-Dame, Indiana, USA), Just Wage Forum and Just Wage Working Group
11.30. Nil Favier, Dr, University of Artois, Arras, The search for fair remuneration in the minds of the big bosses of the North, the example of the crystal glassworks of Arques
12.00. General discussion

Friday, October 6, afternoon. 14.30-17.30
Public pay equity policies
14.00. Gerhard Bosch (PR, University of Duisburg, Institute Sociology, Germany), Industrial relations in Europe and the generalization of the minimum wage
14.30. (waiting for a response)
15.00. (waiting for a response)
15.45. Break
16.00. Round table in preparation
Host: Antoine Reverchon, Le Monde
CEO, HRD, trade unionist
17.15. Conclusions of the symposium and follow-up


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