Either it’s considered from the Employees’ perspective, so yes they always want or need more. Or it’s considered from the Employers’ perspective in which case they automatically fight increases as it effects their bottom line and can negatively impact their businesses to the point where they can no longer afford necessary staff. As both objectives are diametrically opposed to each other, this creates a never ending conflict.
Neither side is EVER going to win the war and thinking that a “Living” wage is a set benchmark to rally for or against is an exhaustive exercise in futility.
Does a sixteen year old with minimal skills, who lives at home and has everything provided to them have the same living wage as say a single mother of 3 who lives in subsidized housing? Does a young single male fresh out of university who lives down town and walks to work have the same financial responsibilities as say a man with a family who lives in the suburbs and needs to commute to work each day? The simple answer is NO. They don’t. How can anyone set a standard “Living” wage when each person’s situation is completely different?
My husband and I had the good fortune to spend a year living abroad in Australia and during our time there we worked intermittently to supplement our traveling funds. Imagine our surprise when they asked us how old we were and if we had a family when determining our wage. When we asked why they informed us that they typically pay minimum wage based on age and current financial responsibilities. STOP THE PRESS!!! What?!
Yes that’s right folks. There is an entire country out there that has paid people a living wage on a consistent and well thought out basis for years, and their economy has NOT collapsed into chaos. I know, crazy right!
Paying people based on their general stage in life has so many simple and logical benefits. For one it encourages students to stay in school because they can’t run off to the oil fields (for example) and earn a ridiculous $30/hr as a labourer. Companies are not allowed to pay a teenager more than is deemed acceptable unless they are emancipated. On the other side of that, there is a risk that unscrupulous employers would only hire pimply faced youngsters to save themselves a quick buck. Well yes that could happen… but the trade-off is that older employees have better skill sets and are more reliable. So if you want employees that can actually do the work and stay out past 9pm you sort of need to hire past the age of 20. An employer has the OPTION of hiring a diverse work force that can operate within their budget. Forcing everyone to be paid the same regardless of their skills takes that all important “Option” away.
Do I think the kid behind the counter at McDonald’s should earn $15/hr and that the employer should be on the hook for that? No! They don’t NEED $15/hr. Have you tried hiring a sitter lately?! It’s insane what we have to pay now but you have to, to compete with the lure of the “new minimum wage”. Do I think parents should have to work 3 jobs to make ends meet? Absolutely not! No one should be living below the poverty line. So how do we solve this little problem? Well instead of being trapped in the mindset that this is the way it’s always been done so let’s just throw more or less money at it; how about saying, “Can we do it better and more efficiently?”
No need to reinvent the wheel here either. Taking a look outside the box (yes I know it’s scary – you kind of feel like a gopher in a field being circled by hawks) at others who’ve perhaps already successfully overcome the problem saves a lot of time and frustration. Am I saying Australia’s system is perfect? Not at all. We haven’t lived or worked there in over 10 years, and I am sure that like with any bureaucratic process it has its flaws. What I am saying is that it’s time to stop chasing our tails and seriously reconsider how things are done. There is a better way, all it takes is a little innovation and the foresight to use it.