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Wage rate established by collective bargaining or by government regulation, specifying the lowest rate at which workers may be employed. A legal minimum wage is one mandated by government for all workers in an economy, with few exceptions. Privately negotiated minimum wages determined by collective bargaining apply to a specific group of workers in the economy, usually in specific trades or industries. The modern minimum wage, combined with compulsory arbitration of labour disputes, first appeared in Australia and New Zealand in the 1890s. In 1909 Britain established trade boards to set minimum wage rates in certain trades and industries. The first minimum wage in the U.S. (which applied only to women) was enacted by Massachusetts in 1912. Minimum wage laws or agreements now exist in most nations.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on minimum wage, visit Britannica.com.