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A wage is remuneration paid by an employer to an employee. It may be calculated as a fixed task based amount, or at an hourly rate, or based on an easily measured quantity of work done. It is contrasted with salaried work, which is based on a fixed time period and with commission which is based on performance.
Depending on the structure and traditions of different economies around the world, wage rates will be influenced by market forces (supply and demand), legislation, and tradition. Market forces are perhaps more dominant in the United States, while tradition, social structure and seniority, perhaps play a greater role in Japan.
Even in countries where market forces primarily set wage rates, studies show that there are still differences in remuneration for work based on sex and race. For example, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2007 women of all races made approximately 80% of the median wage of their male counterparts. Similarly, white men made about 84% the wage of Asian men, and black men 64%. These are overall averages and are not adjusted for the type, amount, and quality of work done.
In the United States, wages for most workers are set by market forces, or else by collective bargaining, where a labor union negotiates on the workers' behalf. The Fair Labor Standards Act establishes a minimum wage at the federal level that all states must abide by, among other provisions. Fourteen states and a number of cities have set their own minimum wage rates that are higher than the federal level. For certain federal or state government contacts, employers must pay the so-called prevailing wage as determined according to the Davis-Bacon Act or its state equivalent. Activists have undertaken to promote the idea of a living wage rate which account for living expenses and other basic necessities, setting the living wage rate much higher than current minimum wage laws require.
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