Minimum Wages Act 1948 (MWA)

A “minimum statutory wage” is that which the statute prescribes and it may be higher than the bare subsistence wage providing for some measure of education, medical requirements and amenities. The SC has held that statutory wage under the Act aims to ensure not only subsistence for the employee and his family but also preserve his efficiency as a worker.

The Act’s main object is to prevent sweated labour. (i.e. exploitation of labour) as well as exploitation of unorganized labour. As recently as 1941 and 1996 the Bombay and Karnataka HC’s have held that non payment of minimum wages is violative of the fundamental Right in Article 23 of the Constitution (all Fundamental Rights are enforceable in a court of law).


If an employment is notified under the Act apart from making payment of a minimum wage mandatory several other provisions beneficial to the workers apply:

  • Maximum number of hours of work is fixed
  • Extra payment over and above the fixed wage for Overtime.
  • One day off for every seven days of work.

To whom does the Act apply?

  • The Act applies only to workers working in employments mentioned in a list (“Schedule”) attached to the Act (referred to as “Scheduled Employments”). It is in the government’s discretion whether or not to include a particular employment in the Schedule. The work of garbage collection done by the BMP Contract labour is not a notified employment.
  • If the Scheduled Employment has 1000 or more workers then the Government is bound under law to fix a Minimum wage via notification
  • The Government may if it thinks fit fix a minimum wage for a Scheduled Employment where there are less than 1000 workers employed.

Diagram of employments for which a Minimum Wage has to be notified

Scheduled Employments

Employments where 1000 or more workers are employed

The shaded portion indicates those employments, which are both scheduled ones and also employ more than 1000 workers. Here the government is obliged to notify a minimum wage and an application can be made to the High Court. For scheduled employments in Karnataka see Annexure 2. In practice, a minimum wage may not be notified for every scheduled employment. For example, in 1996 in Karnataka there were 61 employments in the schedule only 37 for which a minimum wage had been fixed.

list of minimum wages in india in different industries