The last fifty years has seen the development and growth of minimum wage legislation in a wide range of countries. The United Kingdom (1999) and Ireland (2000) are the latest countries to guarantee a minimum level of pay for their employed populations. Just over a hundred countries have ratified International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 26 (Convention Concerning the Creation of Minimum Wage-fixing Machinery) since it was adopted in 1928.2

Despite the widespread ratification of these conventions, minimum wages remain controversial and the international trend is to reduce both the value of statutory minimum wages and their coverage (Standing, 1999).