How can you achieve the American Dream when you're earning this little?
The U.S. House of Representatives voted for an increase in the minimum wage yesterday, taking it up to $7.25 in 2010.
This is equivalent to £3.75 an hour.
It still has to pass through the U.S. Senate, where it’s likely to have tax breaks for small businesses attached to it. Because you can’t just do a minimum wage in America, you have to soften the blow too. Even though it’s worked pretty well over here without.
The Democrats will, rightly, call this progress. Without them it wouldn’t have gone up at all. But is £3.75 an hour really much progress? Our minimum wage is £5.35 an hour, and by 2010 will probably be nearer £6. Even the Confederation of British Industry are reasonably supportive of it.
Republican opponents (all Democrats and 80 Republicans voted for it) say it’s an “intrusion in the marketplace”. Surely it’s better to abandon principle for a while rather than see people live in poverty? As it is, it’s still not enough for anyone to live on, even if things are a bit cheaper over there.
To put this in context, the estimated ‘living wage’ (or amount needed to live on) in America is $8.20 per hour, but up to $18 an hour in many cities. In the UK it’s thought to be about £5.05 or £7.05 in London, so for some people, their minimum wage is more than they need to live on, but for others it isn’t.
Social justice seems to drop off a cliff somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic. Who said the world wasn’t flat?