Publication Date


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Dunham Rowley


International relief agencies operate in environments in which few economic precedents exist. Wages for casual labor in these new economies are determined in either of two ways: by market forces, an economically efficient means, albeit one which is slow and which may prioritize funding over people, or by regulatory groups which establish standard scales, a very quick, yet economically inefficient, means. Economists favor the former method because it is politically, culturally, and economically more defensible. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees, on the other hand, insists on a common scale to present a united response and to maximize the speed with which emergency relief is delivered. The standard scale approach is clearly preferable in the short run when needs are most desperate and donor funding is abundant, but scales eventually shift to a market-type model to take advantage of true pricing and potentially better prepared workers as the assistance continues.

Standard wage scales to date have appeared haphazard and have shown little resemblance to pre-event economies. The inevitable transition to market economies is therefore a difficult and painful exercise as wages may shift dramatically. I sought to develop a generic standard wage scale which would more accurately reflect market pricing for different occupations, thereby easing this transition and simultaneously more closely preserving the economic culture of the displaced population.

The model is comprised of International Labour Organization and World Bank data for hours, wages, and consumption. Hours data are based on world occupational averages derived from a 21-country sample. World average wages for occupations are calculated relative to wages for unskilled labor, thereby approximating cultural economic valuation. Finally, because both refugees and locals are typically engaged in relief efforts, consumption data provides a means of distinguishing between the two groupos based on assistance provided.

The resulting model is useful in determining common scales or simply in acting as a guideline, though it may face opposition from those benefiting from the status quo.


Public Administration