The Minimum Wages Act was passed in 1948 to provide for machinery for statutory fixation and revision of minimum wages in the scheduled employments, including plantations and agriculture. It is a piece of social legislation, which provides protection to workers in employments in which they are vulnerable to exploitation on account of the lack of organization and bargaining power.
The main object of the Act is to prevent the payment of unduly low wages to workers employed in scheduled employments and to secure certain basic conditions of work and employment such as hours of work, overtime wages, weekly off. The Act was initially made applicable to agriculture and 12 other industries ( listed in the Schedule to the Act ) where sweated labour conditions prevailed.
The scope of the Act has been gradually extended to cover new scheduled employments/industries. The Ministry of Labour has fixed/revised minimum wages under the Minimum Wages Act in respect of 39 scheduled employments under the purview of Central Government. Most of the State Governments have taken advantage of the Act and have fixed wages for employments specified in Part I of the Schedule. They have also extended the application of the Act to some other industries besides those scheduled under the Act.
The scheduled employments covered by the flexible minimum wage has benefited work-people engaged in such diverse employments/industries as printing presses,, rice and dal mills, engineering industries, oil mills, plastic industry, cement products, lime kilns for fuel coke ( all in Madhya Pradesh), refractoriness, fire bricks and ceramics industry and cinema industry (all in Bihar), power loom industry (in Tamil Nadu), cinchona, rubber, tea or coffee plantations (in Karnataka and Kerala), oil mills, tanneries and leather manufactory, clothing dyeing and cloth printing in (Gujarat and Maharashtra), bakeries and confectionaries, restaurants, shop and commercial establishments (in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra).
The Minimum wages Act does not provide any guidance to the wage fixing authority in regard to the content of a minimum wage, factors to be taken into account while fixing the minimum wage rates, size of the family unit for which minimum rates have to be fixed, weight age to be given todifferent factors like cost of living, needs of t6e workers etc.. It is, therefore, left to the individual committee or the Government to determine their own standards and arrive at conclusions.