Members' Area  
Lost PasswordSignup
We invite all EAWOP members to participate in developing the organization. Please, click here to submit your contribution.
Twitter Facebook Linkedin YouTube

EJWOP request for special issue on Living wages


Editorial team:

Prof. Rosalind Searle (U of Glasgow, UK),

Dr. Ishbel McWha-Hermann (U of Edinburgh, UK),

Prof. Stuart Carr, Massey University, New Zealand,



Over the last decades there has been a growing socio-economic divide occurring in Europe and the rest of the world, which has escalated in magnitude following the global financial crisis (GFC) (OECD 2017). While economists have been quick to highlight the impact of such societal inequality on economic growth, there has by comparison been a dearth of attention from psychologists. This is somewhat surprising as such disparities are known to impede social cohesion and produce adverse health consequences (ibid). For example contexts with large socio-economic divides are likely to create perceived injustices for those with insufficient social capital to realise their ambitions, regardless of their ability (Searle, Erdogan et al. 2014). Inequality can drive perceptions of injustice leaving those who see themselves as excluded feeling that they cannot trust others, especially institutions and through such mechanisms threaten the ties between groups across society. Economists highlight how unequal communities are likely to disagree on the priorities for austerity hampered public sectors. Within such societies past promises are left unfulfilled, leading to perceived breaches and violations of trust producing an escalation in a very different and much more prevailing belief – that of distrust. Research from a psychological perspective however offers more nuanced insight than the traditional economic perspective, by extending attention onto the affective, cognitive and behavioural consequences of inequality (e.g. Manstead 2018). Psychological research enhances current debate on the benefits and rewards of work, moving away from its current myopia of economic cost-benefit analysis (e.g. wage costs vs employment) to include more holistic insight into the broader positive social and psychological consequences that higher pay can deliver. The living wage is an area of research into which psychologists have only recently begun to venture, but which offers great promise, not only in terms of positive impact on policy, but ultimately for improving the lives of those in working poverty.


Why does insight into wages matter?

European research reveals that the wealthiest 10% of European households control over 50% of the total wealth, while in contrast 3% is controlled by the 40% least wealthy (OECD 2017) . Further, this latter group has higher levels of debt making them more at risk from changes in prices. Changes to work and the aftermath of the GFC have resulted in 1.4 million less jobs in Europe compared to 2007, resulting in a shift toward precarious and low paid jobs. In addition there is growing evidence of educational outcome disparity for the children of those in this less wealthy group. As a result, low wages threaten to compound generational ossification of disadvantage within society, reducing the pool of talent and limiting creativity for organisations. While those working at either the top of organisations or in high demand sectors such as IT or finance have seen their salaries increase significantly, these rewards have not cascaded uniformly through organisations; instead there is also a growing problem of working poverty arising from limited rises in pay, and the pernicious rise of insecure work through temporary and zero hours contracts occurring in parallel with sharp rises in the costs of housing, energy and food. The burden of such poverty is, however, not equally distributed in societies, falling disproportionately on women, and younger and older people.

In response to the increasingly apparent divide between those living with wealth and those in poverty, many societies have introduced a legal “minimum wage” as a means of protecting its people from exploitation (International Labour Organization, 2013). Within Europe and other countries this has expanded into calls for a living wage, that is a wage that is high enough to maintain a decent standard of living (Anker 2006). The call has stimulated exploration of the concept and practice of the living wage (European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, forthcoming). However, this exploration and subsequent debate is largely one framed by economists to focus on cost-benefit econometric parameters, and concerns a specific wage rate. By contrast a small number of psychologists (e.g. Carr, McWha et al. 2010, Smith 2015, Carr, Parker et al. 2016), have been challenging the myopia of simple monetary perspective to instead consider a wider analysis that comprises psychological dimensions such as the consequences of living wages on labour retention, job satisfaction, perceived equality and well-being. Only through the incorporation of such psychological perspectives can we test the argument that a living wage can improve skills development, workforce retention and discretionary effort (Carr, Parker et al. 2016, Carr, Parker et al. 2016). Through developing a more sophisticated multi-dimensional analysis of the issue the perceptions and experiences of wage rates can be assessed to better understand the tipping point(s) where meaningful change occurs for personal, social and organisational lives (Yao et al 2017). Through the adoption of a broader and psychologically-informed notion of the living wage, there are two factors at play – the level below which people risk and experience further deprivation but also above which there can be a qualitative uplift to their human freedom and capability (Parker, Arrowsmith et al. 2016).


Importance for Europe

The living wage is relevant to the current and prescient debates that are occurring within Europe, such as the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (report forthcoming), and more widely through movements including Global Living Wage Coalition, and Living Wage Foundation. It is a debate however that is occurring without the contribution of psychologists. This special issue will enable deeper attention to be paid to the human capability perspective, which extends understanding beyond narrow economic cost-benefit concerns (e.g. wage costs vs employment) of paid work to include critical contextual factors such as working time and working conditions. Through this type of focus advances could be made regarding the role of income on the autonomy of workers’ decision-making and behaviours to explore personal choice and perceptions about equality of opportunity and its effect on subsequent personal and work volition. It promotes more sophisticated insight beyond mere cost of living contentions into inclusion of the wider human work-life quality, including respect and dignity. It advances perspective on when and how contexts and early experiences matter, and their relationship with individuals’ work identities and potential, but also well-being and health. It addresses an important dearth of research on the implications of working poverty on employee wellbeing and behaviour. It further enables work and organisational psychology to play an active role in influencing policy and providing evidence for quality solutions to issues faced by society.

This special issue calls for conceptual, methodological and empirical presentations on topics related to the living wage, including (but not limited to) the following possible topics:

1. Conceptualising and operationalising living wage within the context of psychological research;
2. Employee perceptions and experiences of living wages, including examining the multiple (individual, family, organisational, societal) consequences of living wages;
3. Extending understanding and interest in psychological study of work and pay, which offers a more holistic perspective that extends narrow economic cost-benefit analyses (e.g. wage costs vs employment) of pay work by including critical contextual factors such as working time and working conditions;
4. Elaborate, extend and posit theoretical concepts concerning living wages, including its social embeddedness and links between living wages and affective, cognitive, behavioural and physiological indicators (such as self-efficacy and self-worth, well-being, job security and work motivation);
5. Explore and develop current (e.g. surveys, indepth interviews, case studies and mixed-methods) and new methodologies capable of capturing the nuances of living wage including short and long term affective, cognitive, behavioural and physiological dimensions;
6. Case study examples of how to inform and impact organisations and policy makers of the positive consequences of higher pay;
7. Research on cross-cultural issues in living wage, or comparison of living wage across different cultural contexts;
8. Role of entrepreneurship and innovation in addressing living wages;
9. Using data analytics and “big data” to provide answers around living wages;
10. The evolution of the “gig economy”, including insecure and precarious work, and its role in the living wage movement


Submission Guidelines

The deadline for submissions is 30 March 2020, with anticipated publication by the end of 2021. Papers must adhere to EJWOP policies regarding use of cross-sectional self-report data, student samples and re-use of data from other papers (please refer to the Author Checklist). Papers should be submitted through the online system of the journal, identifying the paper as a submission to this special issue. For guidance relating to content of the special issue please contact the guest editors directly. Queries about the submission process should be directed to the editorial office:



Anker, R. (2006). "Living wages around the world: A new methodology and internationally comparable estimates." International Labour Review 145(4): 309-338.
Carr, S. C., I. McWha, M. MacLachlan and A. Furnham (2010). "International–local remuneration differences across six countries: Do they undermine poverty reduction work?" International Journal of Psychology 45(5): 321-340.
Carr, S. C., J. Parker, J. Arrowsmith, P. Watters and H. Jones (2016). "Can a ‘living wage’springboard human capability? An exploratory study from New Zealand." Labour & Industry: a journal of the social and economic relations of work 26(1): 24-39.
Carr, S. C., J. Parker, J. Arrowsmith and P. A. Watters (2016). "The living wage: Theoretical integration and an applied research agenda." International Labour Review 155(1): 1-24.
Manstead, A. S. R. (2018). "The psychology of social class: How socioeconomic status impacts thought, feelings, and behaviour." British Journal of Social Psychology 57(2): 267-291.
OECD (2017). Understanding The Socio-Economic Divide In Europe, OECD.
Parker, J., J. Arrowsmith, R. Fells and P. Prowse (2016). "The living wage: concepts, contexts and future concerns." Labour & Industry: a journal of the social and economic relations of work 26(1): 1-7.
Searle, R. H., B. Erdogan, J. M. Peiró and U.-C. Klehe (2014). Youth Employment SIOP White Paper series, Society for Industrial and Organisational Psychology
Smith, L. (2015). "Reforming the minimum wage: Toward a psychological perspective." American Psychologist 70(6): 557 - 565.