Teen Perspectives on Minimum Wage
By Miriam Spak (Sophomore)
According to a calculation done by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the living wage (the hourly pay that meets a single, childless adult’s needs) in Pennsylvania is $16.6. At $7.25 an hour, the federal minimum wage, which is also Pennsylvania’s, has remained stagnant since 2009. Consequently, debates surrounding minimum wage have intensified over the past fourteen years. In an increasingly digital age, will entry-level employers opt to replace human employees with autonomous robots if the minimum wage is hiked? Is it ethical or sustainable to pay workers less than they need to feasibly survive? Questions like these have kept these discussions relevant.
When this conversation includes teenage involvement in the workforce, some feel that teenagers working entry-level, ‘easy’ jobs would unnecessarily benefit from a significantly higher wage, while others believe that teenagers also deserve higher compensation for their efforts. These discussions rarely include or center the perspective of teenagers. There is often not even a reason to, as many teenagers without jobs feel rather lukewarm about this issue.
To teenagers who balance work on top of school and other responsibilities, hourly pay is a big deal. Sophomore Na’Deja Covington, who worked at the local business Everyday’s a Sundae over the summer and was paid minimum wage, felt that she “should have been paid more for all the work” she did. “It was so busy all day and it was only me doing the job,” she said. To working teenagers, a wage of just over seven dollars, on top of the injustice and favoritism they might have to deal with at work, “is horrible.”
While Sophomore Dominic Caruso does believe that minimum wage should be raised, he thinks an increase to fifteen dollars an hour, which is championed by liberal politicians, is “a little too high if you work at McDonald’s,” and that a raise that high might lead to people spending “their entire lives” working such positions. He believes that the current teenage salary is appropriate, due to minors working fewer hours than their adult counterparts in the workplace.
Where both students united was on the idea that minors face unique challenges in the workplace. “There should be regulations that teenagers can’t work their lives off. They should be given opportunities to be able to take a job and go to school,” Dominic said. “We’re in youthood. We’re struggling with school… and enjoy[ing] our livelihood while we can,” said Na’Deja. To both of them, this juggling of responsibilities is especially pertinent to working adolescents. To help them, more must be accomplished than a simple hike in pay, though that is still important.
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