The Guardian
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10% of workers receive nearly half of global pay


A new International labour Organisation (ILO) dataset has revealed that only 10 per cent of workers received 48.9 per cent of total global pay, while the lowest-paid 50 per cent of workers receive just 6.4 per cent.

Similarly, the lowest 20 per cent of income earners – around 650 million workers – earn less than one per cent of global labour income, a figure that has hardly changed in 13 years,

The dataset shows that overall global labour income inequality has fallen since 2004.

The release of the new dataset follows a recommendation in the report of the ILO global commission on the future of work, which highlighted the need for new indicators to more accurately track progress on well-being, environmental sustainability, equality and a human-centred development agenda.


The Labour Income Share and Distribution dataset, developed by the ILO Department of Statistics, contains data from 189 countries and is drawn from the world’s largest collection of harmonised labour force survey data.

It offers two new indicators for major trends in the world of work, at national, regional and global levels. One provides the first internationally comparable figures of the share of GDP that goes to workers – rather than capital – through wages and earnings. The second looks at how labour income is distributed.

Head of the ILO’s Data Production and Analysis Unit, Steven Kapsos, explained that data showed in relative terms, increases in the top labour incomes are associated with losses for everyone else, with both middle class and lower-income workers seeing their share of income decline.

Report explained that poorer countries tend to have much higher levels of pay inequality, something that exacerbates the hardships of vulnerable populations.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, the bottom 50 per cent of workers earn only 3.3 per cent of labour income, compared to the European Union, where the same group receives 22.9 per cent of the total income paid to workers.

Kapsos added that when the labour income shares of the middle or lower income workers increase, the gains tend to be widespread, favouring everyone except the top earners.

Economist in the ILO Department of Statistics, Roger Gomis said: “The majority of the global workforce endures strikingly low pay and for many having a job does not mean having enough to live on. The average pay of the bottom half of the world’s workers is just 198 dollars per month and the poorest 10 per cent would need to work more than three centuries to earn the same as the richest 10 per cent do in one year.”

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