International Politics & Society, 17 October 2023

The link between being employed and escaping poverty is not as straightforward as one would hope. Low wages are keeping one in five workers trapped in poverty across the globe. In Africa, nearly 55 per cent of workers live in poverty, 6.3 million people are classified as ‘working poor’ in the United States, and 8.5 per cent of workers are considered ‘at risk of poverty’ in the European Union. In other words, having a job is not the route out of poverty it once was.

A global cost-of-living crisis has aggravated the situation further. While annual inflation reached its highest-ever level in the EU in 2022, more than tripling to 9.2 per cent, wages lagged far behind, increasing by just 4.4 per cent. A similar picture has emerged across other world regions, stretching workers’ poverty wages beyond the breaking point. Globally, wages fell in real terms by 0.9 per cent in the first half of 2022: the first negative global wage growth this century. The world’s workers are facing a purchasing power crisis of unprecedented proportions.

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