The last time I worked for minimum wage was when I worked at the Eglinton Theatre as an usher at the age of 17. While it was a step up financially from what I earned mowing lawns, painting fences and shovelling snow, it barely covered the cost of clothes, records, and my transit pass.
Fast-forward to 2014 and I’m in the process of rebuilding (rebooting?) my employment after the 2008-2009 recession. I’m back at minimum wage again and, as before, it barely covers my personal expenses.
It is for this reason I took interest in a proposal to increase the minimum wage in Ontario from $10.25 to $14.00. The proposal was tabled by a group that included ACORN, Worker’s Action Centre, and the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty.
The argument is a sound one, at least on paper: the minimum wage has been frozen at $10.25 for the past three years, while the cost of living has no doubt increased. People living at the poverty line (where technically I am at right now) can afford very little with the money they have.
The real problem that no one seems to recognize, however, is not about the current minimum wage. It’s the scant number of jobs available for those looking for work, including entry level jobs that pay minimum wage.
We already live in a jobless recovery in this Age of Austerity, yet if the the minimum wage is increased too much, companies will operate with even fewer employees due to increased payroll costs. Instead of helping people living in poverty, more people will end up unemployed if not underemployed, and that increases the ranks of the impoverished in our society.
It’s been said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I believe this proposal is one example of such intentions that will generate the opposite of what is desired.
If we want to get people out of poverty, we need to give them more jobs to apply to, including those at minimum wage.
Thanks for reading!
P.S. As of January 30th 2014, it has been announced the government of Ontario will increase the general minimum wage to $11 per hour on June 1st, 2014.