Since March this year, the Campaign to Raise the Minimum Wage has been working tirelessly to persuade the government to increase the minimum wages from the current rate of $10.25 per hour. Their crusade has found great support in Ontario, home to half the number of minimum wage earners across Canada. The minimum wage has remained unchanged since 2010, and as the members of the Campaign to Raise the Minimum Wage have pointed out, the cost of living has increased manifold. However, it is not as if their pleas have garnered unanimous support; many Canadians have expressed fears that any hike in the minimum wage will lead to a rise in the unemployment levels. Opponents of hike in minimum wage are also skeptical about the effect such a move will have on the small business owners, particularly in Ontario.
The debate on increasing the minimum wage has as many opponents as there are proponents. The supporters, while presenting their arguments, rue the fact that most corporations are sitting on huge cash reserves, but are unwilling to part it with their hardworking staff. The fact that cost of living has increased over the last three years, while the minimum wage has remained the same does call for an increase in the minimum wage. For a full-time employee, making ends meet every month is becoming more and more difficult. Supporters say that the working poor need to get a higher hourly wage so that they earn at least 10% more than the poverty line. Activists who are supporting the hike in minimum wage are bemoaning the fact that a majority of these urban poor workers are ill-equipped to deal with the uncertainties of life such as a medical emergency, and mostly depend on government welfare schemes. This, the supporters claim, outs a burden on taxpayers across the country. Most minimum wage earners live paycheck to paycheck, and lack any rainy day or emergency fund. For any minimum wage earner, who has the responsibility of supporting a family, the current salary is not sufficient. Proponents argue that setting the minimum hourly wage at $14 will at least solve some of the financial issues of a wide section of unskilled workers.
People who oppose an increase in minimum wage have their own set of arguments about the consequences of making such a move. They believe that workers earning minimum wage should look at their jobs as a temporary, or a stop gap arrangement until they move up the ladder. They are of the opinion that most minimum wage jobs should be a steppingstone for acquiring new skills and gaining experience. They also opine that any increase in minimum wage will only do more damage to the employment prospects of hundreds of thousands of people, who have little or no skills to get a job in this fiercely competitive market. Most small businesses that employ unskilled workers such as dishwashers, waiters, etc., may very soon have to reduce the size of their workforce to comply with the laws, in case such an ordinance is passed. Opponents of minimum wage increase say it is very easy to do an economic analysis on the consequences of such a move on the Ontarian economy. Businesses might end up cutting jobs in order to pay more to those employees that they want to keep. Opponents say that increasing the minimum wage by a couple of dollars or more will not solve the problem of poverty.
Well, there are arguments and counterarguments on both sides of the minimum wage debate. Any increase in the minimum wage will have some ramifications on the state of unemployment and the overall economy, but if the government is able to contain these effects, it should definitely provide better wages to a lot of people in Ontario. While assessing the nature of the low skilled jobs, we need to spare a thought for those workers whose entire families depend on the paycheck that they get from doing menial job. It is not about providing luxuries to these families; rather it is about covering their basic needs.