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Business and Professional Ethics Journal

Volume 29, Issue 1/4, 2010

Philippa Smales
Pages 109-134

Living Wages and Institutional Supply Chain Duties

The question may be asked why many workers are still being paid below subsistence wages and I believe the answer can be found in the confusion over what exactly constitutes a “living wage” and who has the duty to pay these wages. This article therefore clarifies what a living wage is and gives a concrete example of how a living wage can be calculated. To understand who has the obligation to pay living wages I look to the theory of Alan Gewirth on individual and institutional responsibility and the account of Robert Mayer on structural exploitation to argue that all parts of the supply chain have the duty. The final part of this paper will outline the inclusion of a living wage calculation into corporate codes of conduct to ensure that workers at the end of the supply chain receive living wages.

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