What is a living wage and why are people talking about it?

A living wage is the concept that businesses that function in a given area should pay workers at a rate that enables them to live, i.e. rent a single bedroom home, pay for transportation, and buy food, in that community.

Here are some of the reasons that people are advocating for a living wage:

  • The video posted here by the White House Tumblr, provides some interesting anecdotes about what it is like to live on minimum wage in America.
  • The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. A full time employee who never takes an unpaid sick day or vacation day makes $14,500 a year, before taxes, at this pay rate.
  • More than 1.5 million hourly workers make the federal minimum wage.
  • Even more (1.8 million), including student workers and people with disabilities, make less than that.
  • Many, many more people make only a little bit more.
  • Many people claim that you are not “supposed to” survive on minimum wage jobs. They are for “kids” or “extra money”. However, even if you believe that, 36% of minimum wage (or below) jobs are full time.
  • Even still, there is no particular reason why jobs that we as a society need or want done should be paid poverty wages. We may be accustomed to it. It may be a cultural assumption. However, there is no inherent truth to the idea a job that can be completed in 15 hours a week does not deserve the compensation a living wage.

Did this help you understand the concept of a living wage? What would you write about if you were writing a paper on this topic?

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