What is a Living Wage?

A living wage, simply put, is a wage that allows workers to cover their basic needs and enjoy a decent standard of living. It should cover all necessary food, clothing, housing, education, health care, transportation and other essential needs – plus a bit left over for unexpected expenses. It should also be attainable by working normal hours at one job, without overtime.

A living wage is not the same as a “subsistence wage,” which refers to the minimum wage a worker needs to merely survive. Nor is it the same as the minimum wage, which is the lowest remuneration that employers can legally pay their employees by law.

A living wage should cover:

Other needs
Unexpected expenses

What is the living wage in Georgia?

per month*

*As calculated by the Wage Indicator Foundation for October 2022. For more information on their methodology, see here.

This figure is based on

All of Georgia

Average of all urban and rural areas.

One worker in a typical family

Based on World Bank data.

Pre-tax income

Gross before taxes and social charges.

Why is it important to pay a living wage?

There are many reasons to pay a living wage, but chief amongst them is the issue of basic dignity. Employees who give their time and labor to an employer should be paid enough to cover their basic expenses and afford a decent standard of living. A society where workers are chronically underpaid to the point of destitution is not only cruel and inhospitable, but also unsustainable in the long term. Employers who pay a living wage contribute to Georgia becoming a more equal, just and stable place to live.

The living wage also has huge economic benefits for companies. In fact, it’s one of the soundest investments that a business can make.

First, better wages for workers means they have more money to spend, which helps grow the economy. Second, Georgian companies often complain that they cannot find or retain good staff. Living wages help solve that problem. Better wages lead to increased employee well-being and health, improved loyalty and commitment and less absenteeism. Workers who stay longer in their jobs tend to also get better at those jobs, which can improve productivity.

Finally, paying a living wage can improve a company’s brand reputation by showing consumers that the company cares about their community. This can only help their bottom line.

What are actual wages in Georgia?

Unfortunately, prevailing wages in Georgia are currently far below the living wage. The minimum wage is a paltry 20 GEL per month, and has not been updated since 1999.

According to government data, the median wage – the amount that divides workers into two equal groups – was 900 GEL per month as of 2021. That means 50% of workers earn less than that amount. Even the average (mean) wage was only 1,305 GEL per month in 2021, well below the living wage.

Prevailing wages vs. the living wage

  • 1.3% 1.3%

Minimum wage

Georgia’s minimum wage of 20 ₾ is equal to 1.3% of the living wage.

  • 14.3% 14.3%

Subsistence minimum*

Georgia’s subsistence minimum of 253.90 ₾ (as of Oct. 2022) for a working age male is equal to 14.3% of the living wage.

  • 50.8% 50.8%

Median wage

Georgia’s median wage of 900 ₾ is equal to 50.8% of the living wage.

  • 73.7% 73.7%

Mean wage

Georgia’s mean wage of 1,305 ₾ is equal to 73.7% of the living wage.

  • 42.4% 42.4%

Hotel median wage

Georgia’s median wage of 750 ₾ for accommodation and food service industry workers is equal to 42.4% of the living wage.

* The subsistence minimum is the minimum level of income necessary to purchase food and other basic personal needs at a level allowing an individual to survive. It is calculated by the government monthly. However, the methodology for calculation has been widely criticized as unrealistic, resulting in a figure that is far too low. For example, food makes up 70% of the figure, and it incorporates a 14% discount vs. actual food prices (based on the flawed assumption that people can bargain for lower prices at markets).

Take action!

How can we make a living wage a reality? Unfortunately, there’s no quick and easy solution. Building the society we want will take time, effort and creativity. But here are a few concrete actions you can take to start laying the groundwork for better wages.

Join a Labor Union

The best way to increase your pay is to organize with fellow workers. Labor unions allow workers to team up and act as one, which improves everyone’s bargaining power for better pay and working conditions. Don’t know where to start? We can help.

Vote for Workers’ Rights

Georgia’s politicians haven’t prioritized labor rights in recent years. But that can change if they think the issue is imporant to voters. Vote wisely. Vote for candidates who commit to supporting labor rights and better pay.

Support businesses that pay a fair wage

Not all businesses treat their employees equally. Support the ones that pay a fair wage! Working together, our spending decisions can influence businesses’ behavior.

This page has been created with the support of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation. Its contents are the sole responsibility of the Georgia Fair Labor Platform and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Foundation.