Millions of workers face "painful" wage cuts because of the global economic crisis, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has said.
"For the world's 1.5 billion wage-earners, difficult times lie ahead," said ILO director general Juan Somavia.
The body forecasts that global growth in real wages will reach 1.1% at best in 2009, after rising 1.7% in 2008.
In industrialised countries, wages are expected to fall by 0.5% in 2009 after rising by 0.8% in 2008.
Source/full report atBBC
The wage crisis is not confined to poor or developing countries, the ILO says. Wages in industrialized economies are expected to actually fall, from an increase of 0.8 percent in 2008 to a decline of -0.5 percent in 2009. In the U.S., average wages are expected to decrease by about 1 per cent in 2008 and fall even further in 2009.
In the United States, workers at the top earn 4.75 times more than those at the bottom, compared to a ratio of 2.10 in Norway, 3.0 in France and 3.15 in Germany.
The report also points out that growing wage inequality is creating a dangerous situation. Since 1995, inequality between the highest and lowest wages has increased in more than two-thirds of the countries surveyed, often reaching socially unsustainable levels. Among developed countries, Germany, Poland and the United States are among the countries where the gap between top and bottom wages has increased most rapidly. In other regions, inequality also has increased sharply, particularly in Argentina, China and Thailand.
The report shows that collective bargaining is an efficient way to counter declining wages and fight wage inequality. However, the ILO notes that in the United States, less than 15 percent of workers are covered by union collective bargaining, compared with more than 70 percent in a number of European countries, including Denmark, Finland, France, Netherlands and Spain.
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