• Arizona
  • Thursday , Feb 1 , 2018

Area Info

3 minutes reading time (533 words)

Wage laws hurt young and poor


It might be politically popular, but raising the minimum wage is terrible policy.

Minimum wage laws hurt the very peo­ple they’re intended to help. The poor who would benefit most from an entry level job find themselves shut out as employers have fewer dollars to devote to new hires.

Teenagers looking to grab that first rung on the career ladder are presented dwindling choices as jobs for young people with little experience become increasingly scarce.

Teen employment rates are dismal and they’re getting worse. In 1999, more than 50 percent of teens age 16-19 had a summer job. By the summer of 2013, only 32 percent of teens were off the couch and earning a buck, prompting one economist to call this “a Great Depression for teens.” For all of 2012, Ari­zona’s teen unemployment rate was a stag­gering 28.9 percent, one of the highest in the country.

Young people are the most likely to seek out minimum wage-level positions and to be hurt by wage hikes that eventually freeze them out of the job market. Just over half of minimum wage earners are between 16 and 24.

While the president’s proposal is unlikely to gain traction in a GOP-controlled House, Arizona unfortunately has already chosen to go with the automatic inflation index option. Passed by voters back in 2006, Arizona law says that employees earning the minimum wage get an automatic raise every January based on the consumer price index. In Janu­ary 2013, workers saw the minimum wage go from $7.65 to $7.80. In a matter of weeks when we flip the calendar to 2014, the hourly rate will go up another 10 cents to $7.90.

As the Gallup data indicates, momentum around the country is solidly behind a mini­mum wage hike. With federal action unlikely, states are pushing a higher minimum wage. Five states this year, either through legislation or ballot measure, have hiked their minimum wage. Cities are instituting their own mini­mum wage laws, too, including our neigh­bors in the New Mexico cities of Albuquer­que and Santa Fe. SeaTac, the community of 27,000 around the Seattle airport, just passed a $15 minimum wage, and Seattle’s mayor­elect says he wants his city to adopt a $15 minimum wage, too.

There is not only a real opportunity for business community leadership on this issue, but a responsibility, too. Unless the business community leads a conversation over the de­structive power of minimum wage laws, em­ployers will soon be saddled with unsustain­able entry-level wages that will squash job growth, hurt the poor and stifle teens look­ing for a start. It’s time we make a move to change the momentum before it’s too late.

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