There’s a nice little story in the Herald today about the Greens’ youth campaign launch, and especially our policy to raise the minimum wage to $12 for all workers aged 16 and above. This is effectively a 58 percent increase in the minimum wage for 16- and 17-year-olds. Now, Business NZ CEO Phil O’Reilly made the same old argument against the policy that right-wingers always make against a minimum wage of any kind: it will force people out of jobs. O’Reilly said:
Young people aged 15, 16 and 17 often have not only no formal skills, but also no work experience, so this is their first job. They need to learn some of those very basic skills about work such as timeliness. So the reason the youth wage is there is to encourage employers to take them on. What this [policy] is likely to lead to is that if you have a choice between someone a bit older and someone younger, you will take the older because they are more likely to have those skills.
Umm, 16- and 17-year-olds don’t know how to turn up on time, yet 18-year-olds do, and that’s why you should pay the 18-year-olds a couple of a dollars more an hour to do the same work as the 16- and 17-year-olds? Yeah, right. And the experience thing? I would have thought work experience would be a very case-by-case issue. At present, McDonalds must, by law, pay a pampered 20-year-old helped by his parents through university and branching into his first job more than a 17-year-old out of school for a year who has worked for the fast food chain for twelve months. No, I think the equal pay for equal work principle is a pretty good one 🙂
Of course, there is no evidence that minimum wages drive people out of jobs. Right-wingers (including Don Brash) have argued against having a minimum wage at all, and also against every rise there has ever been to the minimum wage. However, its effect has actually been simply to see wages rise across the board, not to push people at the lower end out of the workforce.
Indeed, if you think that people on the youth minimum wage now won’t have jobs if the Green policy is introduced, then I ask you this: who will do the work that they do now? Will McDonald’s and Reading Cinema just stop employing people to man the tills? The truth is that all that will result from this policy is that many low-income Kiwis will get a fairer wage, while companies profits will be reduced slightly.