The Power of Fair Pay: Moving Beyond Basic Needs & Leaning Into Joy

The Power of Fair Pay: Moving Beyond Basic Needs & Leaning Into Joy

According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, in order for people to truly experience connection, freedom, intimacy, creativity, and spontaneity, they first need economic and physical security.

This may not come as a surprise to most, seeing as we’re taught at a young age that consistent work is an essential component of our security. We’re told that money and, more specifically, financial stability allows us the freedom to experience the joys of life beyond basic survival.

But what does it really mean to earn a ‘fair’ wage? And why is financial security still out of reach to so many? Though there are many leading causes, at the root of the issue is a lack of access. Without equitable access to skills-based training, education, and a stable job market, many people are left behind in a constant state of worry and unable to move beyond the means of survival. Eldar Shafir, a psychologist at Princeton University explained that being in a worrisome state is one of the many struggles of living in poverty and often contributes to individuals making decisions out of scarcity. 

Can you remember the last time you felt particularly stressed or worried? The truth is, many people only know stress in the form of everyday inconveniences: running late to a meeting, losing the car keys, or spilling coffee on a nice shirt while sprinting out the door for work. And no doubt, these stressors likely impacted your ability to make other decisions, plan ahead, or recall important information.

Now consider the thought of being in a constant state of worry—like wondering how to put food on the table for your family or where your next paycheck is coming from. 

This is only a fraction of what living in poverty feels like every day, and it’s a reality many of our artisan partners have intimately experienced. 

While the artisan sector has the second-largest economy in the developing world, artisans often lack consistent cash flow due to unsustainable market connections. However, as artisans experience greater financial stability, they are enabled to lean into the small joys of everyday life without the constant burden of struggling to make ends meet. 

A study conducted in rural Kenya reinforces this notion. The purpose of the study was to identify the effects that an increase in income had on Kenyan families by comparing the psychological well-being of those who received automatic cash transfers and those who did not. After nine months, economists Haushofer and Shapiro found that families who received these cash transfers reported being happier, having greater life satisfaction, and feeling a reduction of stress. 

At Ethik, we have seen the power of fair pay first-hand, which is why we dedicate our business to ensuring artisans make an above-average wage that allows them to look beyond basic survival needs and invest in education, healthcare, and long-term assets—creating a brighter future for themselves and their families.

We work not only to provide stable market connections but specifically, connections that lead to larger wholesale purchases and create economic stability over longer periods of time. 

Dignified and stable work is only the first step. What we really want artisans to experience is deeper access to the joy that comes once our physical and economic needs are met. 

Learn more about our impact philosophy and core values here.