The Minimum Wages Act 1948 is an Act of Parliament concerning Indian labour law that sets the minimum wages that must be paid to skilled and unskilled labours. The Indian Constitution has defined a ‘living wage’ that is the level of income for a worker which will ensure a basic standard of living including good health, dignity, comfort, education and provide for any contingency. However, to keep in mind an industry’s capacity to pay the constitution has defined a ‘fair wage’. Fair wage is that level of wage that not just maintains a level of employment, but seeks to increase it keeping in perspective the industry’s capacity to pay. To achieve this in its first session during November 1948, the Central Advisory Council appointed a Tripartite Committee of Fair Wage. This committee came up with the concept of Minimum Wages. A minimum wage is such a wage that it not only guarantees bare subsistence and preserves efficiency but also provides for education, medical requirements and some level of comfort.
India introduced the Minimum Wages Act in 1948, giving both the Central government and State government jurisdiction in fixing wages. The act is legally non-binding, but statutory. Payment of wages below the minimum wage rate amounts to forced labour. Wage Boards are set up to review the industry’s capacity to pay and fix minimum wages such that they at least cover a family of four’s requirements of calories, shelter, clothing, education, medical assistance, and entertainment. Under the law, wage rates in scheduled employments differ across states, sectors, skills, regions and occupations owing to difference in costs of living, regional industries’ capacity to pay, consumption patterns, etc. Hence, there is no single uniform minimum wage rate across the country and the structure has become overly complex.