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How much (more) is fair to pay? The ethics of merit in assessing poverty wages in organizations

Javier Pinto (School of Economics and Business, Universidad de los Andes Commercial Engineering, Santiago, Chile)
Germán R. Scalzo (School of Economics and Business, Universidad Panamericana, Mexico City, Mexico)

International Journal of Ethics and Systems

ISSN: 2514-9369

Article publication date: 5 June 2024




This study aims to conduct a comprehensive analysis of poverty salaries and minimum wage in light of virtue ethics and a new natural law perspective on work.


Existing approaches to poverty wages are critically examined, including the nonworseness claim and legal minimalism. This paper introduces a more nuanced framework, taking into account the concepts of merit and participation in light of virtue ethics.


We argue that the fairness of minimum wage policies can be assessed as a matter of contributive-distributive justice by considering individual contributions to an organization's outcomes within an approach that provides a robust foundation for reconciling the dignity of work with the operational realities of organizations.

Research limitations/implications

Empirical research is needed to validate the practical application of the proposed conceptual framework for addressing poverty wages.

Practical implications

The paper provides better decisional arguments for employers concerned with poverty salaries in their organizations considering the moral dimensions of wage policies and employee well-being, offering guidance for potential adjustments in compensation practices. It also contributes to the discourse on social and economic justice by emphasizing the moral obligations of organizations in fostering a just and dignified work environment without the employee's participation.


This paper presents a novel approach that blends virtue ethics and new natural law principles, emphasizing the moral responsibilities of employers and organizations in addressing the conditions of the working poor. It also highlights the potential for a “lesser evil” situation, morally acceptable when it serves as a transitional phase aimed at improving working conditions and employee well-being.



Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical approval: The study did not involve the use of any humans or animals.

Conflict of interest: The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


Pinto, J. and Scalzo, G.R. (2024), "How much (more) is fair to pay? The ethics of merit in assessing poverty wages in organizations", International Journal of Ethics and Systems, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.



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