'I grew convinc'd that truth, sincerity and integrity in dealings between man and man were of the utmost importance to the felicity of life.' -Benjamin Franklin, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

Dealing with Low Wages

by Ethan Glover, Sun, Jan 18, 2015 - (Edited) Mon, Oct 24, 2016

You claim that if the minimum wage didn't exist, most service industry employees wouldn't make a livable wage. First, I recommend caution when using a word like 'most.' Most people in the service industry already make well above a livable wage. But, if we minimized things down to the stereotypical low-skill jobs like fry cooks, I can agree. Many fry cooks wouldn't make a livable wage according to current stats.

As I said in my article on minimum wage, these jobs are best suited for those who have never worked. The study I cited show that most people doing such jobs are not the primary earners in their households. And that most people in poverty don't work. No minimum wage means more jobs, which means greater opportunity to break into the market.

With that said, minimum wage earners are unproven and often cannot earn the company back what they're paid. I do volunteer consulting because I'm unproven in the industry I'm trying to break into. I'm learning new skills as I go and I can't expect anyone to take a chance on paying me normal fees.

You must also understand that current minimum wage laws drive up prices in many industries. A fair argument I could make says that with lower minimum wages, you could see lower livable wage standards. (Because lower wages would create lower prices.) This, of course, isn't enough of a factor to make a huge difference. As I said before, the vast majority of people, in all industries, make well above current living wages.

Getting There

You noted that you know a woman who has trouble affording an apartment in the city. It's important to remember that costs are always higher in high populous areas. Where I live, the living wage is $7.84. Drive an hour and it raises to $8.92. In a city like New York, it's $12.75. Lower in some areas, higher in others.

The higher convenience of the city, higher cost of land, more business in the area, etc., all make for higher costs. Many people have chosen to live in the suburbs and rural areas. They make a cost/benefit analysis on a commute. It's usually the smarter way to go when you make a low wage.

I'd also like to note that there are huge labor gaps in skilled labor markets. Construction, maintenance, healthcare, any science, welding, electricians, etc. I'd recommend looking at the Mike Rowe Works Foundation for finding ways to learn basic skills that pay a more "adult wage." These aren't all college-required skills. Most available jobs only need a couple thousand dollars over the period of six or so months for training. Anyone on a fry-cooks wage with a reasonable head on their shoulders can find a cheap place to live and do said training on the side.

You may argue that, "Well, this person I know doesn't have the money or the time to move and learn a new skill." I can only say that getting yourself out of a bad situation always requires work. Throwing money (stolen from taxpayers) around isn't going to solve anything. What do you propose?