As many students are probably aware, the minimum wage in California was increased at the beginning of this year from $6.75 to $7.50 per hour. The state minimum wage will increase again to $8 per hour in 2008.
We Californians can be thankful that our wage increased again over the new potential federal minimum wage of $7.25. In fact, California has the third highest minimum wage after Vermont and Washington. It’s a good thing too, seeing as we have to contend with a pretty steep cost of living.
With a rising minimum wage, we’re getting closer to a living wage. And no one is going to complain about getting a raise, but is it enough?
For a person working full-time, or 40 hours a week, the 75 cent wage increase raises their weekly income from $270 to $300. The yearly income has rose from $12,960 to $14,400. That’s nice, but not exactly lifting anyone out of poverty or debt.
It seems that this wage increase is more beneficial for students like myself. I work part-time while going to school full-time and still receive some financial assistance from my parents. The extra $120 a month can be saved to pay off my loans after graduation.
Other students though, who receive no financial support or have families of their own, are forced to either work and go to school full-time, or sacrifice school and attend part time while retaining their full-time job. How much is $120 really going to help in that situation? Some, but not enough. It’s enough to put more food on the table, but unlikely to move you to a nicer place.
Students are supposed to be concentrating on our education. Going to college is supposed to be our job. We’re supposed to be going to class and studying for 40 hours a week. That’s why one of the choices for occupation on those innumerable forms we have to fill out one is marked “student.”
This may sound like a case of “biting the hand that feeds,” especially from someone who is still attached to their parents financial umbilical cord. But when a fellow student confides in me all she ate last night was a can of lima beans from her cupboard because that’s all she had run out of money to get more at the store despite working two jobs there’s a problem. Maybe if enough of us bite back at the hand of our government they’ll offer more assistance to all of those who are struggling to live paycheck to paycheck.
Granted, I don’t know the inner working of politics. I’m sure there are many negative effects of the raising minimum wage But when there are students who have to work two or more jobs and are still struggling to get by, there’s a problem with the system. Unfortunately, raising the minimum wage is only treating a symptom, not the cause of the problem.