Decent work

focuses on “opportunity for women and men to obtain decent and productive work, in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity”

Decent work

Dr Ishbel McWha-Hermann

Decent work is a term first coined by the International Labour Organization in 1999 and focuses on “opportunity for women and men to obtain decent and productive work, in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity” (ILO, 1999:3). Key to the concept is that employment in and of itself is not enough, rather it must be of sufficient quality to satisfy human needs of identity (meaning), belonging and security. Decent work is built around four pillars: employment creation, social protection, rights and work, and social dialogue, and cuts across five main areas. 

  1. Work that is productive and delivers a fair income

  2. Security in the workplace and social protection for families

  3. Better prospects for personal development and social integration

  4. Freedom to express concerns, organise and participate in decisions

  5. Equality of opportunity and treatment for all women and men.


Work and organisational psychology science (WOP) has much to contribute to the ways that work can be, and remain, decent. Through application of the theories and tools of WOP we can understand how to create and maintain good quality - decent - work to ensure it provides important benefits for workers, and also for employers. Furthermore, decent work supports a fairer society that enables individuals to thrive and their families to prosper offering important benefits to the wider society. 


A key component of the decent work stream is its focus on living wages. The EAWOP small group on living wages was formed in 2019, drawing together scholars from across Europe and beyond to discuss critical challenges, and evidence-based insights regarding how to enhance decent work. 

Below are the briefing papers and below that is an open access paper – all for downloading.

More information

Living Wage Week 2021 round-up

Victoria Stuart–Martin

University of Glasgow

Discussing the captivating insights from some of the Living Wage week’s conferences held in November 2021, highlighting some of the fascinating scientific research and real-lived experiences of implementing the Living Wage

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University of Glasgow


Rosalind Searle

Living wages are a critical topic in making individuals and society more resilient. In this interview, Prof Rosalind Searle reflects on why they matter and the implications for Edinburgh City of becoming a living wage space, but also the consequences for other areas as poor quality jobs are pushed out.

She draws on her work with Dr. Ishbel McWha-Hermann to argue why we should be focusing on decent work rather than work per se if we are going to have a healthier, more productive and more sustainable society.  


Spotlight is a podcast from the University of Glasgow, which looks at public policy and the political process. 

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Ros Searle interview
00:00 / 25:55

Living Wage:
What is it?

Mendiola T. Calleja

While having a job should reflect the ability to move out of poverty, data reveals that having a job does not automatically mean that ability to enjoy a decent life

Impact For Individuals & Organisations

Rosalind Searle

Ishbel McWha-Hermann

& Andrea Coulson

Individual employees undertake work in return for fair pay. If we consider living wages as an exchange in this way then some important psychological insights emerge about the positive consequences of living wages for individuals.

The Importance of Supply Chains

Divya Jyoti &

Bimal Arora

Living wage can have far-reaching consequences for people, societies, economy, business, and policy.

A Checklist for Managers

Andrea Werner

  1. What is the Living Wage and why is it important?

  2. Advantages of adopting the Living Wage

  3. Practical steps to ensure successful and sustainable implementation of the Living Wage


Money’s too tight
(to mention)

Rosalind Searle &

Ishbel McWha-Hermann

An open access paper review and psychological synthesis of living wage research review and psychological synthesis of living wage research