Monday, February 19, 2007

The Minimality of the Wage

When I first moved to the States from India and I came across the concept of the minimum wage, I remember thinking how civilized a concept it was. A hallmark of good public policy. I think it used to be around $4.80 or so then (1993). Then I went to the UK in 2005 to work as a fellow. Casual labor in the UK gets paid about the same as workers here in the States if you consider $1=£1 (of course, this is not really the case for those of you who are econ-heads but the buying power of the currencies are roughly equal in their respective nations). Minimum wage in the UK went up to £5.35 per hour in 2006 from £5.05.

However, I would argue that the UK worker is getting a much better wage than her American counterpart despite getting a max 10% tip (in service industries) if you get any tip at all.

The UK minimum wage is a much more humane living wage because health care for all its citizens is already taken into account. The minimum wage in the USA is a sick joke on the poor. The poor are expected to work and not be a drain on the system. In the land of opportunity, it must surely be the lazy who are poor.

Can someone on minimum wage afford to buy health insurance? Can they afford to take care of their children or even themselves? Can they eat nutritiously and focus on the positive things in life? I would answer in the negative. The American minimum wage is a farce played to keep policy wonks happy for doing something and the industry happy for getting such cheap labor.

The number of working poor in this country is not insignificant though it is not something that gets talked about openly, not being a sexy topic for conversation or even for news reportage. A significant proportion of the working poor are mothers. There is a tragedy unfolding here. This is not the America that this country should grow into. We need change. We need compassionate and realistic public policy.

This government is By the media, Of the lobbyists (elected and otherwise), For the rich (industrialists and otherwise).

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