The Code on Wages, 2019 (‘Code’) seeks to universalize the law on minimum wages in India by removing the distinction between scheduled and non-scheduled employment that has been central to the application of the Minimum Wages Act, 1948. The Union Ministry of Labour and Employment claims that the elimination of this dichotomy will extend the protection of minimum wages law to more than an estimated fifty crore workers. This paper posits that the goal of universalization of minimum wages may remain a pipe dream due to several explicit exclusions, definitional limitations, and ambiguities in the Code. As a result, not only would many wage workers still remain outside the ambit of minimum wages protection, the coverage of domestic workers, who were earlier covered under the Minimum Wages Act, 1948, may also be imperilled. Further, the exclusion of employment guarantee programmes from the ambit of the provisions on minimum wages also contravenes the constitutional prohibition against forced labour under Article 23. In addition, the Code also fails to address some of the critical structural barriers in the labour economy that have impeded the implementation of minimum wages law so far. This paper argues that the Code’s failure to recognize an entitlement to minimum wages for every wage worker and address the systemic hurdles in the payment of minimum wages undermines the goal of universalization of minimum wages as well as the constitutional mandate on payment of minimum wages

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Saurabh Bhattacharjee, 'Universalization of Minimum Wages As A Pipe Dream: Many Discontents of the Code on Wages, 2019' (2020) 16(2) Socio-Legal Review 1

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