The180

When is a minimum wage not a minimum wage?

When some people get paid at an even lower rate than others. Economist Todd Hirsch makes the case for why Canadian provinces should have different pay scales, for different people.
Listen6:48

There are generally two sides to the debate about the minimum wage: those who say raise it, and those who say keep it where it is (between 10 and 11 dollars an hour in Canada).

But Todd Hirsch says he has a better idea: create a graduated scale, so younger workers have a lower minimum wage than older ones. The Chief Economist at ATB Financial, borrowed the idea from The Netherlands, and says it could help keep people above the poverty line, without hurting the pocketbooks of small businesses. 

How it would work:
The minimum wage would go up every year until you're 23, meaning younger workers still living at home wouldn't make as much as older workers trying to pay rent and support their own families. To ensure employers don't just give hours to the cheaper workers, the wage would be based on a week, not an hour, which means the more hours you are able to work, the less an employer has to pay you by hour. If all worked according to plan, high school students who needed work experience but not a whole bunch of money would work evenings and weekends, and older workers who need a living wage would work full-time hours during the week, and the balance of different hours and different wages would work well for employers too. 

What would the wage be? 
Hirsch says he'd like to see Alberta be the test case in Canada. He says the numbers would have to be worked out, but taking into consideration the Dutch model and the estimated living wage for life in Calgary, the minimum wage could work out to $6.00/hour at the low end, and top out at $17/hour. (The current minimum wage is $10.20/hour).

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