In the last year, several states passed laws, effectively increasing the minimum wage. However, the social and economic debate over this phenomenon continues. Also known as a “living wage,” this movement has a number of powerful proponents in fields from law and economics to less rigorous outlets of social appeal. In the article below, five of the main arguments in favor of the living wage will be briefly outlined, offering individuals who would like to know more the opportunity to explore the topic.
1. Wage Stagnation and Rampant Inflation
While there have recently been some incremental increases in the largely static minimum wage, they do not reflect the economic reality of low-wage employment in a financial context of uncertainty, crippling debt, and climbing rates of inflation. Economists and political scientists have both argued that this dynamic is dangerous, pushing those in low-wage positions to rely more on public assistance, while concomitantly receiving a decreased return for their productivity within the market. Even in recent years, the price of basic commodities has risen dramatically while the minimum wage has remained largely fixed.
2. Increasing the Minimum Wage Would Not Adversely Impact the Number of Jobs
The argument that paying people more for their labor will lead to a decrease in jobs is raised each time the minimum wage is changed. It’s hardly new, but in recent years has been presented as if it were a fact, which it is not. Many defenders of raising the minimum wage to a living wage will indicate that the minimum wage has already been raised 23 times in the past. Each time, there were many who bemoaned the end of plentiful employment opportunities. Each time, nothing of this sort occurred.
3. An End to De Facto Public Support of Low Wage Companies
Labor specialists and social economists within the academic community have repeatedly shown that the proliferation of low-wage jobs represents an increased strain on the public fund. In essence, because those who work these minimum wage jobs, but—due to other economic factors like inflation and increased cost of living—must rely on public social assistance programs, low wage industries receive a de facto government subsidy, which is funded by taxpayer monies. In 2013, according to a report from the Labor Center at UC Berkley and the University of Illinois, this amounted to $243 billion dollars.
4. The Proliferation of Low-Wage Jobs During Economic Turmoil Increases the Poverty Base
Since the housing market bubble burst in the early 2000s, jobs and financial stability have been a concern of increasing import for many Americans. Many in positions of political authority are entreated to produce a more favorable employment climate, and will often tout the creation of low-wage, service or industry-oriented jobs as a sign that they’re listening to their constituents. However, these low-paying jobs actually make the poverty problems worse. As more people are forced into these sectors and rely on public assistance in order to survive, there are fewer individuals who are paying into the social assistance programs via taxes. This ultimately functions to increase inflation, further worsening the problem.
Small Business Owners Can Afford It and Many Support a Living Wage
In large part, this is a direct counterargument made by detractors of raising the base wage in the U.S. Those seeking a Working-Class Hero archetype for propaganda targeted small business owners, claiming they would be driven out of business by such a raise. However, a poll from 2014 indicates that 3 out of 5 small business owners can afford it and staunchly support a raise to $10 or more an hour.
While it’s clear that the debate over paying more for the labor of those who work in low-wage, low-status jobs will continue, having a good idea of the facts matters. Opponents of a living wage have been cited as repeating emotionally based propaganda that lacks a factual basis. On the other hand, those arguments in favor of increasing the minimum wage cite statistics, social data, historical evidence, and are made from positions of authority in fields of Economics, Political Science, Sociology, and Law.