When I was a teen, every kid I knew had an after-school job. Mine was in the mall, working at Hickory Farms. I don’t remember exactly what I got paid, but it was it was something like $2.50 per hour. These days, the minimum wage is much higher at $7.25 an hour. While that may not sound like much, some feel that it’s too much for employers to handle and a contributing factor to the decline in the number of teens working.
Just 3 years ago, minimum wage was $5.15 and the teen unemployment rate was 16%. But as the minimum wage rose, so did the teen unemployment rate. Today, 26% of people aged 16 to 19 aren’t working.
Of course, some of those out-of-work teens are casualties of a poor economy. But James Sherk, a labor policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation, believes that if there were a lower minimum wage requirement for teens, more more employers would be willing to hire them. He estimates that by dropping the minimum wage for teens back down to the 2007 rate of $5.15 per hour, nearly 500,000 jobs would be created.
But why should teens, who are presumably being supported by their families, even need a job? Because working not only gives teens extra money which many need in order to pay for college, Michael Saltsman of the Employment Policies Institute (EPI) says that teens with jobs gain skills they just can’t get outside the workplace.
There’s an invisible curriculum from being employed, learning to work with co-workers, reporting to a supervisor, learning to deal with customers.”
But some fear that lowering the minimum wage for teens will inadvertently knock older workers out of the workplace. Why pay an adult over seven bucks an hour when you can get a kid to do the same job for less? As important as jobs are to teens, aren’t they are more important to those who work to support themselves and their families?
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