The Ethics of the Living Wage: A Review and Research Agenda

Journal of Business Ethics 137 (3):433-447 (2016)
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Abstract

To date, business ethicists, corporate social responsibility scholars as well as management theorists have been slow to provide a comprehensive and critical scrutiny of the Living Wage concept. The aim of this article, therefore, is to conceptualize the living wage in its philosophical as well as practical dimensions in order to open up the ethical implications of its introduction and implementation by companies. We set out the legal, socio-institutional and economic contexts for the debates around the LW and review arguments for, and against, it. Key philosophical arguments from the perspectives of sustainability, capability and externality are invoked and discussed in order to demonstrate the issues and challenges involved for companies, state and civil society actors. Relevant examples from the private sector are examined to demonstrate some of the practical issues involved when the LW is introduced by employers. The article also recommends avenues for a research agenda into the LW for business ethicists, CSR and management researchers in contexts such as the UK, where a voluntary, rather than mandatory, approach to the implementation of the LW is adopted.

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