Teen inclusion in wage hike merited


The debate about minimum wage has been going on for decades, raising issues such as its effects on the overall economy and workplace competition. While people have been discussing whether the minimum wage should be raised to $15 per hour, many have also been debating whether teenagers should have the same pay increase.

Despite what activists and government officials have been saying, without a doubt, teenagers deserve the same minimum wage increase as adults.

Advocates against raising youth wages have argued that teenagers are unable to do certain things that adults can, such as working late hours or operating heavy machinery. There’s also various obstacles for teenage workers, such as school, family rules and restrictions like the inability to drive— thus they should be paid differently. 

However, setting a different pay rate for younger workers creates a disadvantage for adults seeking employment. Generally, adults and teenagers who work minimum wage jobs have the same performance standards. If teenage workers cost less than adult workers but still perform the exact same job, then employers would “hire cheaper teenagers instead of adults, undermining job opportunities for the struggling families I-1433 was designed to help,” Jeff Johnson said in an article for The Olympian.

Lowered youth wages also equate a person’s age with value. Older people do tend to have more working experience because of their age, however, a 17-year-old could have just the same or even more working experience from summer jobs than a 21-year-old who has just entered the workforce. If teenagers are paid according to the youth wage laws, then a more experienced teen would be paid less than an unproductive adult worker. 

Having a youth wage would also be incorrectly assuming that teenagers don’t need a higher wage. Opponents of increasing youth wage argue that teenagers apply for work purely to gain more work experience since they don’t need to support themselves with living costs like adults.

But, teenagers often work for the money as well, not just the experience. While insight for a future job and gaining work experience to put on resumes or college applications may be important, they aren’t the only valuable feature of having a job. In fact, a third of teenagers in families 200 percent below federal poverty level and 26 percent of teenagers in single parent households are employed. Managing personal finances, helping with family finances and saving up for college or personal expenses are the key reasons many even get a job.

While the value of minimum wage is a controversial topic, deciding that teenagers earn less than the normal minimum wage for adults thoroughly undermines the importance of teenage employment.