Raising the Minimum Wage Will Harm Workers and the Economy

By Othman Mekhloufi | United States

Left-wing and Keynesian economics have overwhelmingly called for an artificial raising of the minimum wage. This has been due to the belief that all workers must be paid a living wage regardless of their line of work or skill set. Essentially, this is a belief that it is unfair to not compensate workers with a living wage. However, to require employers to compensate their workers with higher wages will only play to the disadvantage of said workers through the inflation of prices, unemployment, as well as the cutting of work hours. Hence, resulting in a worse off economy for all individuals, and simply an unpragmatic economic policy.

The minimum wage is the legislated minimum amount of money an employee may be legally paid for their work. This minimum wage, whatever it may be, is not necessarily a living wage, but rather a wage paid for jobs which require a minimum amount of skills. For instance, if a worker were to create more than twenty dollars an hour for their employer, they would be compensated for twenty dollars an hour, or less. In essence, workers are paid according to how much they produce, and how much is possible to pay them. Such a method of compensation allows businesses to remain financially afloat by being able to make money at all, and, in turn, pay off expenses.

As a general rule, it is positive for all individuals for a business of any size to remain afloat. When businesses are present in the economy, it allows for a product and/or service to be provided to the consumer end of the market. In addition to this, jobs are created with the existence of the business, as well as its future expansion. 

However, when the minimum wage is artificially raised by the government, employers will be legally required to compensate some of their employees for possibly more than they initially produce.

Considering small businesses, this will result in one of two major negative economic repercussions. The first of which is work hours getting cut and employees getting laid off, resulting in the business most likely ceasing operations. The second impact is inflated prices, resulting in individuals, as well as the economy, being harmed. 

When small businesses must compensate their employees for more than they initially produce, compensation is rendered financially impossible. As a result, small businesses will be effectively forced to lay off employees, causing unemployment.

Having to lay off many employees, small businesses will be unable to continue their production, resulting in businesses being forced to cease operations. Considering the fact that small businesses are not as large-scaled as others such as McDonald’s, automation to replace workers would not be a viable option as it would be unaffordable.

Through causing small businesses across the board to cease operations, unemployment is bound to be brought upon the economy. In addition, the product and/or service that the business initially provided to the consumers would be brought off the market causing additional burden to customers who relied on said product and/or service.

For example, if a small business has workers that produce thirteen dollars for each hour of work, but compensates said employees seven dollars and twenty-five cents an hour, it would allow for the small business to rake in five dollars and seventy-five cents per work hour after paying employees. These five dollars and seventy-five cents would be used to pay other expenses, make a profit, as well as generally stay financially afloat. However, when the government is to raise the minimum wage to fifteen dollars an hour, the small business would be forced to pay employees two dollars more than they initially produce. In turn, the business would begin to lose two dollars for every work hour, as well as experience a total absence of income. In light of having no income, and losing two dollars an hour to compensate said employees, and to remain financially afloat would be impossible. Such would result in the small business having to lay off said workers.

In this case, automation would not be a viable option for said small business as it would be unaffordable. In the case where it would be affordable, said business would not be small, but rather one of larger scale.

Due to being unable to automate, and having a lack of labor, the small business would be unable to produce the product, and/or service which was initially produced. In result of such, the said small business would be forced to cease operations.

To avoid laying workers off and, in turn, ceasing operations, small businesses have the option to raise prices to remain financially afloat. However, this option is in itself still a negative economic repercussion for both the consumer, and the business. If businesses are to raise prices, many customers would be driven to competitors who offer a cheaper price, or would simply cease purchasing said product and/or service as a whole. In turn of such, businesses would begin to lose out on income, and the customers who remain would be financially burdened with higher prices.

Such economic repercussions are not limited to small businesses as the same has occurred with Starbucks in 2018. Starbucks had announced that it would be closing roughly three times as many stores in 2019 than it usually would in a year. The closures of these Starbucks locations will be focused in densely populated and urban areas on the west coast, as well as in the northeast where the minimum wage is particularly high. Starbucks CEO, Kevin Johnson, had stated that the affected stores are “in major metro areas where increases in wage and occupancy, and other requirements are things that were making those stores unprofitable.”

In the case of larger scaled businesses and corporations who would not go out of business due to an increase in the legislated minimum wage, negative economic repercussions would continue to take place.

When the minimum wage is artificially increased by the government, businesses that are able to stay financially afloat while paying their workers more will experience income loss nonetheless. Businesses, in all cases, will want to mediate income loss to the greatest possible extent for furthermore profit. To deter such income loss through spending less money, said businesses will cut work hours, lay workers off, as well as raise the prices for their services, and/or products.

Inflation of prices would drive customers to competitors, as well as cause the business to lose out on income as a whole. Because of this, price inflation is an unlikely method to combat a loss of income for larger scaled businesses as they can afford other means to do so. Most prominent of these other mechanisms to cut income loss is to cut work hours, as well as lay off employees.

This was seen in an estimation made by the Bank of Canada stating that over sixty-thousand jobs will be lost by the year 2019 due to minimum wage hikes; along with a study conducted by the University of Washington which had observed that after Seattle’s minimum wage hike from $9.47 to $11.50 an hour, there had been only a one percent decrease in low wages.

When workers are laid off to mediate income loss, they must yet again be replaced by an entity to continue doing the necessary work the business requires. In response to such, automation of labor comes into play. We witness this in today’s world as McDonald’s has announced that they will be replacing cashiers with automated kiosks in all 14,000 of its U.S. locations as of 2020In addition, McDonald’s had announced that it was prioritizing such automation in locations with prominently high minimum wages such as Seattle, and New York City.

After nineteen of the American states had announced a minimum wage increase to ten dollars an hour in January of 2017, a month later in February, the CEO of Wendy’s had announced financial shifts within the company. Wendy’s CEO had announced a four percent rise in wages, along with an eight percent loss in margin. In turn of this, although not confirmed, but evidently understood with the previously explained economic theory, Wendy’s had announced a plan to install automated kiosks sixteen percent of its locations; a cheaper alternative to conforming to the minimum wage hikes and paying workers more. 

With all economic theory, and evidentiary claims considered, it can be understood that artificial hikes of the minimum wage will indeed result in unemployment, cutting of work hours, shutting down of small businesses, as well as the inflation of prices; all resulting in a furthermore disadvantaged financial situation for workers, the individual, as well as the entirety of the economy itself. Therefore, inherently proving that a hike in the minimum wage would be detrimental, and counterproductive to the goal of left-wing, and Keynesian economics.


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