Raising the minimum wage isn’t a solution to poverty, particularly poverty among student populations. As students who often work minimum wage jobs and struggle to make ends meet, pushing for a raise in minimum wage seemingly makes sense but we need to put more thought into its real implications.
Increasing the minimum wage has become an important part of bringing Canadians out of poverty for federal and provincial governments. In Oct. 2016, the Ontario government raised the minimum wage for the third consecutive year. NDP and Liberal provincial election campaigns have floated $15 per hour as a minimum wage Ontario should aspire to in the past few years.
For many workers, “minimum wage” is expected to be the lowest possible salary an individual can support themselves with or achieve a basic standard of living. As a result, our dialogue places significance onto minimum wage as a key factor in solving poverty.
But the conversation about a raised minimum wage and its purpose needs shifting. Increasing minimum salaries doesn’t necessarily equate to an increase in the standard of living — the flow of money isn’t only in one direction.
Raising the minimum wage costs employers and, as a result, could cause a reduction in the amount of job opportunities and some jobs to become unreasonably competitive.
At the end of the day, it’d be the students who suffer the most. Students are often the ones who start off in low-end jobs while in school and increasing the minimum wage would reduce access to those entry-level jobs that help pay tuition and living expenses.
The raise would ironically hurt the workers it’s meant to protect — it’d become harder for lower-skilled and inexperienced workers to find work. Not only would students find opportunities to advance careers and employment more difficult, the cost of living would inevitably increase as products become more expensive to offset the increased cost of production. It’s already difficult enough for many students to budget for the costs of tuition, food, rent and basic necessities in an effort to minimize the struggle of student debt.
Tackling the issue of insufficient income isn’t as simple as raising the minimum wage and it may be the wrong battle.
We need to be conscious of its detriments and recognize that increasing minimum wage isn’t a solution to our problems — it might just increase them instead.
Irene is a second-year political studies major. She’s one of The Journal’s Copy Editors.
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