Why $11.60 an hour is just fine

$15 Canadian dollars / Chloe Charbonneau

The Kathleen Wynne government has done it again, more change might be coming to Ontario. This time they’re changing the minimum wage from the current 11.60 per hour to $15. But don’t get too excited quite yet, this change will affect more than the pay of minimum wage employees.

“Although we’ve done a good job in tying the increases in the minimum wage to the cost of living, I think we have to look at a jump up at this point,” Premier Kathleen Wynne explained. “We are in competition with New York, we’re in competition with San Francisco. Those are jurisdictions that are moving to a $15 minimum wage.”

So students like you and I working some casual job at the grocery store, or even full time employees who still earn only minimum wage, could be bringing home closer to $225 from a 15 hour work week, rather than $171. So what’s wrong with raising the minimum wage? Well, first let’s talk about the perspective of the employer. While this might not be a big deal for larger companies like McDonald’s, Tim Hortons, Loblaws or any other large market brands, it will be for small local ones who might not be able to afford the $3.20 pay raise for their employees. This could lead to employees getting fewer hours, employees being let go, or businesses closing down completely. This can result in workers earning the same amount due to hours lost and a higher overall unemployment rate. Take local St. Catharines businesses as an example, will they be able to keep up with this increase? While this increase might be an act of good intention, such a drastic increase is not realistic for small businesses.

Putting small businesses aside, shouldn’t it be good news that employees’ are earning more money for their hard work? Well it could help students afford living and pay off tuition and all the other expenses we deal with. But if we can get paid $15 per hour doing a job that requires no education, why would we need post-secondary education? Sure no one really wants to work a minimum wage job for the rest of their life, but if you can start at $15 per hour right out of high school and work your way up it might become more appealing than continuing to post-secondary studies. This allows people to start earning money right away, and staying out of debt. If more people go straight to the workforce after high school, this may lead to a reduction in the number of qualified professionals.

Wynne argues that Ontario’s economy is doing well and is strong enough to justify a boost of this size for low-wage workers. However, if everyone starts fighting for minimum wage jobs that require minimum education Ontario’s economy will grow weak with the limited number of individuals working towards jobs that require higher education that strongly promote the economy. This, with the addition of job losses and business closing down, has nothing but potential for a weaker economy. Although I agree that individuals working minimum wage jobs as a career deserve an hourly wage closer to living wage, handing out $15 per hour to everyone is not the solution. If Wynne wants to help low-wage workers, then helping them get the education they need for a higher paying job is the way to go. It helps boost our economy, doesn’t hurt local businesses, and allows more individuals to reach their full potential.

Overall, an increase in minimum wage could work if it is done strategically over a longer period of time. This will allow smaller businesses time to adjust. Furthermore, ensuring that individuals with post-graduate degrees are still making more than the minimum wage would be vital.

 – Contributor, Chloé Charbonneau

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