Chapter 6: How to enforce minimum wages

6.3 Information and awareness raising

On the importance of awareness

A key measure is making information on applicable minimum wages available to both employers and workers – and the public more generally. Along with information on applicable rates, awareness should be raised about the sanctions in case of non-compliance. In addition, persuasive arguments and a supportive public discourse can be part of the construction of a “culture of compliance”.1

For example, in the United Republic of Tanzania it was found that workers who knew their rights and legal entitlements were also more likely to be paid accordingly.2 An evaluation study on the implementation of India’s Minimum Wages Act, 1948 in the stone-breaking and stone-crushing industry in Karnataka in 2007–08 found that, among employers, only 30 per cent said they were aware of the Minimum Wages Act. Among workers, only 8.4 per cent were aware of the Minimum Wages Act and 18.5 per cent knew of any inspection authority.3

How to publicize minimum wages?

Awareness-raising activities and information dissemination strategies undertaken by governments and social partners can rely on a range of different channels including the Internet, television and radio broadcasts. Providing information and advice to workers and employers is also one of the principal functions of labour inspectorates.

In the United Kingdom, for example, when the national minimum wage was introduced, it was widely believed that the policy would be successful only if it was largely “self-enforced” – that is, so widely known about and accepted that there would be widespread compliance. To this end, much attention was devoted to information campaigns, by the authorities as well as social partners.
Similarly, in Costa Rica, a National Minimum Wage Campaign was undertaken in 2010, which combined awareness raising, facilitating and encouraging complaints. A central feature of the campaign was information on a new telephone hotline allowing workers to report wage violations in a simple and anonymous manner. This hotline received tens of thousands of calls. During the campaign important personalities, including the country’s President, made public statements calling for respect for minimum wages.4

Information dissemination can potentially improve compliance even in the informal economy, where a widely known wage standard (like a minimum wage) can play a guiding role for wage fixing and alter workers’ and employers’ expectations and behaviour – the so-called “lighthouse” effect.
1 Benassi, C. 2011, “The Implementation of Minimum Wage: Challenges and Creative Solutions”, Working Paper No.12, ILO GLU, March.
2 Lee, S. and D. McCann (2011b). “The impact of labour regulations: Measuring the effectiveness of legal norms in a developing country”, in Sangheon Lee and Deirdre McCann (eds): Regulating for decent work. Geneva, ILO, pp. 291–312
3 Government of India (GoI) (2009). Evaluation Study on the Implementation of Minimum Wages Act, 1948 in Stone Breaking and Stone Crushing Industry in Karnataka 2007-8, Government of India, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Labour Bureau, Chandigarh.
4 Trejos, J. D. (2013). La aplicación de los salaries mínimos en Costa Rica con énfasis en el sector rural. Unpublished mimeo. San José, Research Institute in Economic Sciences, University of Costa Rica.