AskDefine | Define wages

Dictionary Definition

wages n : a recompense for worthy acts or retribution for wrongdoing; "the wages of sin is death"; "virtue is its own reward" [syn: reward, payoff]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. Plural of wage
  2. In the context of "plural": one's total income for a time period

Extensive Definition

A wage is a compensation workers receive in exchange for their labor.

Defining what is considered a wage

Labor and finance fields

In labor and finance settings, a wage may be defined to include cash paid for some specified quantity (measured in units of time) of labor. Wages may be contrasted with salaries, with wages being paid at a wage rate (based on units of time worked) while salaries are paid periodically without reference to a specified number of hours worked. Once a job description has been established, wages are often a focus when negotiating an employment contract between employer and employee.

In economics

Economists define wages more broadly than just cash compensation and include any return to labor, such as goods workers might create for themselves, returns in kind (such as sharecroppers receive), or even the enjoyment that some derive from work. For economists, even in a world without others, an individual would still acquire wages from labor: food hunted or gathered would be considered wages and any returns resulting from an investment in tools (such as an axe or a hoe) would be deemed Profits (a return to real capital). The need to sell one's labor for wages in order to survive and prosper was described as wage slavery by the Lowell Mill Girls, Karl Marx and various thinkers in the socialist and anarchist traditions.

Determinants of wage rates

Depending on the structure and traditions of different economies around the world, wage rates are either the product of market forces (Supply and Demand), as is common in the United States, or wage rates may be influenced by other factors such as tradition, social structure and seniority, as in Japan.
Several countries have enacted a statutory minimum wage rate that fixes the price of certain kinds of labor.


Wage derives from words which suggest "making a promise," often in monetary form. Specifically from the Old French word wagier or gagier meaning to pledge or promise, from which the money placed in a bet (wager) also derives. These in turn may derive from the French gage to wager, the Gothic wadi, or the Late Latin wadium, also meaning "a pledge".

Wages in the United States

In the United States, wages for most workers are set by market forces, or else by collective bargaining, where a labor union negotiates on the workers' behalf. Although states and cities can and sometimes set a minimum wage, the Fair Labor Standards Act requires a minimum wage at the federal level. For certain federal or state government contacts, employers must pay the so-called prevailing wage as determined according to the Davis-Bacon Act or its state equivalent. Activists have undertaken to promote the idea of a living wage rate which would be higher than current minimum wage laws require.

External links

wages in Czech: Mzda
wages in Chuvash: Шалу
wages in Danish: Løn (arbejde)
wages in German: Arbeitsentgelt
wages in Spanish: Salario
wages in French: Salaire
wages in Hebrew: שכר
wages in Italian: Salario
wages in Dutch: Arbeidsloon
wages in Norwegian: Lønn (økonomi)
wages in Polish: Płaca
wages in Portuguese: Salário
wages in Romanian: Remuneraţie
wages in Russian: Заработная плата
wages in Simple English: Wage
wages in Chinese: 工资
wages in Contenese: 人工
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