Making sure young people are prepared to enter the job market would do a lot more than raising the minimum wage.
While it is probably necessary to set a floor of some type on wages — I mean there are scoundrels out there who will take advantage of desperate people — artificially setting the value on labor in the long run will not solve the problem of people not making enough money to raise a family or just take care of themselves.
I don’t have statistics to back me up, but I would think that almost immediately upon the upward adjustment of the minimum wage various prices for things such as groceries and even rent will go up accordingly. The free market would be reacting to an artificial manipulation of the labor market.
And with the pressure of automation at all levels of work and in virtually all types of work (even areas which were once thought invulnerable to automation) and the pressure of competition in the market place on the local and state and national and global levels, there will no doubt be job reductions. People already in jobs will work harder (and in some cases may be paid more, or not) and management will decide that some tasks or endeavors are just not worth it. Management might also find it more economically advantageous to contract some things out rather than maintain employees on the regular payroll.
And then there will be the pressure from workers only making just above the new minimum. They will demand raises due to what I read is labeled “wage compression”. I mean people often work hard to get into a higher job classification to get more pay. But what if now that more pay does not amount to anything?
And what does arbitrarily setting a wage for work do to the idea of paying for skill? I had an uncle who grew up in the brick mason business. He was a master brick layer. Then he left the profession for an extended time. Later he came back. Being the senior man on the crew it was his job to hand out the paychecks. He was astounded to find that laborers were making as much or almost as much as he was (okay, that’s the story he told me — I’m just saying). Unions were strong where he was. But wouldn’t that tend to put a crimp on the supply of skilled workers?
Now it is true that some people will do a good job and even learn and improve no matter what their wage — they just have personal pride. I think that is both good and a godsend for selfish employers (a kind of mixed blessing there).
But seriously, I have written before that if you are depending on the minimum wage to make it in this world — good luck with that. If you are young enough and able your best bet is to improve your skills. Get into something you like and be real good at it. If your skill is in demand, you will always be employed and will have opportunities to make more (although you might have to sacrifice something in the short run, such as move to another location, or forgo some immediate gain while you are in training).
Take it from me. I figure I’ve done about 50 percent wrong in life, but maybe the other 50 percent right.
There needs to be more adult re-training available. It could or should be a cooperative effort between government and private sector. It could pay big dividends for society by lessening the needs for social welfare and improving productivity and thus the economy and living standards for all.
But these programs need to be real and have value for the students, rather than boondoggle for government contractors looking to make a buck by shoddy training. As a reporter for a newspaper I once did a story on a local re-training program. I remember one student who impressed me as a professional welfare recipient. She said she was real familiar with these re-training programs. She had been in the last one to come around. It looked to me as if neither she nor the public got much out of that. Of course demand for skills does keep changing. That’s what makes it all so tough for so many.
I think there ought to be more of an emphasis in the lower grades at public schools (and private) on future career planning. In the name of not forcing people to decide on their path in life too early society spends an awful lot on social welfare or safety net programs and at the same time goes wanting for various needed skills. It makes no sense.
And in this day and age, young people who are destined for higher education cannot afford to think too long about who they are and what they want to be. I can tell you a college diploma alone will not get you a job. Now if you can combine practical skills and experience with formal education, you have a winning ticket.
And even with automation and the advance of various technologies there is still a high demand for what used to be pejoratively called vocational training. But that training has to be updated for today’s environment. But our grade schools and high schools often fall short in that department because we went through a time when vocational training was devalued in the minds of the public. I don’t know why. We still need talented people to fix our cars, our plumbing, our house wiring and to build our buildings and roads and well all kinds of hands-on stuff. And we need engineers — not just software programmers.
You can work in some of the trades and make very little money, but if you are skilled and willing to go where the pay is, then you are much better off.
But the onus is on the individual. Waiting for a hike in the minimum wage is just not the answer.
Again, human dignity, I imagine, does demand some kind of floor in wages. There are a myriad of reasons why individuals find themselves working at the low rung on the ladder, even into middle age and older. It is not right to pay people sub standard wages and expect the governmental social welfare systems to help out while at the same time decrying government control.