Taiwan over the past decade has received persistent, although uneven, minimum wage increases that have more or less kept pace with inflation, now standing at $160NT per hour.
Meanwhile, in the US, while many states have raised their minimum wages to as high as $13.69USD per hour, about $385NT, while the federal system has meant that some states with no statutes follow the federal minimum, which hasn’t been changed since 2009, at $7.25USD per hour, about $200NTD, barely higher than Taiwan’s.
Despite the nearly century of combatting data between microeconomic theories regarding whether minimum wage increases depress or even accelerate employment, the orthodox model world about marginal differences in a theoretically perfect labor market which is pure fallacy is totally irrelevant to the issues of fairness that modern democratic systems hold. The minimum wage is not designed to be an equalizer, it is meant to set a wage floor whose conditions under which it is considered cruel to expect someone to work.
As corporate profits and the the ratio between minimum wage and management compensation has been consistently rising for the better part of the last century, theoretical speculation regarding undetectable employment drops as a result of the minimum wage at the very least keeping pace with inflation have been an intellectually insulting argument. Fractional increases in the minimum wage relative to inevitable inflation, or even large increases meant to reach value parity with earlier minimum wage values would have a far lower effect on employment, or on inflation, than the other massive destabilizing global societal factors, not least including the Wuhan Coronavirus.
Thus, at the very least to keep pace with inflation, and keep poorer families or second wage earners from having to work 60 hour workweeks, in the absence of better public housing and skyrocketing home prices, a lack of reasonable daycare, unaffordable tertiary education, and missing universal healthcare, in addition to the pressing need to address all of the above, as of 2021 with no update for 12 years despite 12% inflation over that period, at the very least the US minimum wage should be increased to $15 an hour.
The United States and Taiwan, for its part, ought to institute persistent time-linked minimum wage increases tied to consumer prices to ensure no downslide or a slackening of societial income ranges, and prevent partisan tampering.
Further, in order to facilitate this, the American minimum-wage exemption for tipped workers should be removed. In order to increase the wages of service jobs, gratuity should be made illegal and should revert to what it originally was seen as, a bribe that rich people dangled over the heads of service staff to cut the lines at food service establishments, or to receive more prompt service than the poor by promising a bribe. This outdated and classist practice that has no place in the 21st century, yet ironically is supported by working class people in the service industry who have been deceived to believe that the practice is in their interests by the owner class who refuses to simply raise their wages, and would rather minimize payroll tax liabilities and let the customer pay a cash bribe.
With some of these reforms in place and a tightening of national income ranges, social stability would likely increase and at the very least, the people and their elected government would at least make a normative statement regarding society setting a minimum acceptable floor for the least fortunate amongst us at a level that can provide a decent life.
Staff writer: Ari B
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