As part of our ongoing research on sustainable models for collaboration between artisans and designers, we at DEED have partnered with our friends at EcoSessions – the global storytelling platform that brings together designers, industry, and consumers to discuss change – to launch #FairCraft. We have invited artisan enterprises to fill out a brief survey on artisan wages and product pricing. Our concern is a simple question with a complex background: are artisans in emerging economies being paid a living wage?
The term “living wage” comes up a lot in public policy discussions centered around raising the minimum wage. It generally refers to the lowest income necessary for a person to meet basic needs. In the developing countries where DEED and our colleagues work, not only are minimum wage laws often lacking, but a living wage looks much different (read: much smaller) than what we are used to in the United States, and especially in New York City. Even so, it is unclear whether or not purveyors of traditional craft products have the living wage concept in mind when they purchase different products directly from artisans.
That is where our study comes in. We asked participants to fill out one survey for each artisan group they work with, posing questions touching on how much each artisan is paid, who decides this amount, what factors go in to deciding the price (i.e. the country’s minimum wage laws, Fair Trade requirements, price fluctuations of raw materials), and how the money gets to the artisan. Differences in responses could mean the difference between an artisan group that has made a fortuitous market connection and one that is being exploited. As such, the survey results could provide valuable insight into an even deeper issue: is artisanal craft production a viable engine for development in emerging economies?
As the survey closes on November 30th, hopefully we’ll soon be able to answer some of the questions posed above. Furthermore, we will be presenting the results in February 2015 at Parsons The New School for Design, so keep your eyes open for an event invitation!