More and more in the news we are hearing a debate between these two ideas; between earning a living wage as opposed to a minimum wage. There is a big difference between the two.
A living wage is defined as the minimum hourly wage that must be earned by two people in a family of four in order to meet their basic needs. This wage only reflects the real cost of living and is based on actual expenses with no extravagant expenses. One cannot plan a retirement on such a living wage.
A legal minimum wage is one mandated by law that forces companies to pay a certain hourly rate irrespective if that hourly rate meets the real cost of living. Obviously, living in a large city might be more costly than living in a small town for example. None of these differences are reflected in a mandated mimimum wage. This is why people sometimes speak about the working poor, people who work at mimimum wage or just above it and yet have trouble meeting their financial responsabilities.
One way to fight poverty is precisely by having workers earn a living wage, one where they just not only survive but one where they can thrive and meet all their financial responsabilities. More and more companies are joining associations that promote the living wage and these companies in turn offer higher wages to its employees voluntarily. No need for coercion by governments using the legislative route.
I for one applaud these initatives. I always feel bad when I enter a fast-food joint knowing full well that the people on the other side of the counter, fellow human beings as I, are paid just barely over the minimum required by law. These companies sell franchises to others but in return the people buying these franchises must respect the rule book of the company. A fast-food worker earning 15$/hour? God forbid….
In my own small way I have decided to chip in; I will not eat in a fast-food joint that operates in the above fashion, by paying people as little as possible and making money of the sweat of these employees. We should all take a stand and if everyone did that companies would react as the bottom line would be adversely affected. Let’s raise the standards for everyone. Because we are all human beings, not slaves.