Same Job, Same Wage?

Every time I visit Australia, one of the first things I see in the news is a discussion of minimum wages. Pay rates in Australia are to some extent set by the government; these days by the Fair Work Commission.  Today there is a news story that a labor union will seek to have teenagers paid the same wage as adults for the same job.  This increase in youth wages will decrease the quantity of young workers demanded, especially as that demand is typically quite elastic. Worse still, this will prevent some kids from obtaining job experience, thus reducing their human capital and making them less employable in the future.  As Peter Seeger sang, “When Will They Ever Learn?”

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  1. Steven says:

    And forcing gender wage parity or racial wage parity for the same job could also theoretically reduce employment for those discriminated against economic groups.

    How are teenagers different?

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    • Dave says:

      I see your point but it is a little different. Teenagers turn into adults (most of the time)… rarely do women turn into men or blacks turn into whites… rarely.

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    • Matt says:

      I don’t think that’s an invalid statement, whether it seems “right” or “wrong”.

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    • James says:

      Stop thinking about age, and consider experience instead.

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      • Steven says:

        Australia has a mechanism to compensate experience, so they’re not analogous.

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    • pawnman says:

      Because, as a general rule, teenagers are not using their wages to pay for shelter and food. Their guardians do that.

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  2. Fiona says:

    If you read the article, it states that the union is trying to ensure that 20 year old workers get paid the same as adults once they turn 21. This is reasonable. The point is that some employers are not ensuring the wage increase once they turn 21. This is not about paying ‘kids’ an adult wage. Wages in Australia are awesome and generally speaking we have a fantastic standard of living.

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    • Bill C says:

      Kind of hard to accept economic analysis from someone who thinks 21-year-olds are teenagers.

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      • brazzy says:

        You do realize that Fiona is merely reiterating what the original articles says in its second paragraph, and which David is severely misrepresenting here?

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  3. Emily says:

    It is slightly unfair to assume that all teenagers have economic support through their parents. There are many college students putting themselves through school, so not only do they have to achieve normal living standards but also pay tuition. Therefore, paying them more and enabling them to continue through college does ultimately make them more employable. However, this is not the case for many teenagers, and although parental economic status does not seem a fair means for determining wage, it is essentially the assumption made when teenagers are paid less than adults.

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    • Enter your name... says:

      I don’t think that’s true. My calculation when it comes to hiring a teenager has a lot more to do with “first job” and the substantial extra hassles that creates for me than with how his rent check gets paid.

      If you’ve been in the workforce for a few years, even in a completely unrelated job, then you have basic employability skills: you show up on time, you dress appropriately, you put your cell phone away, you don’t scream at customers when you’re frustrated, you have some basic idea of how paydays and sick leave work, and so forth. On the other hand, with a “first job” situation, we once had to sit a teenager down and explain that he needed to take a shower before coming to work, because once a week wasn’t cutting it. We had to fire another “first job” teen because he couldn’t understand that showing up on time was actually important to us, even though he knew that the person on the previous shift couldn’t leave until he clocked in.

      I look at the teens working in the grocery store and other low-skill places, and I find that I’m grateful to the employers who are willing to mold them into valuable workers. I also think about how much more valuable this is for the teens than ten hours of “mandatory volunteer work” that our local school requires, and how little the students learn from that (especially the mass projects organized by the school). I wish that paid work, in a proper job as a regular wage employee (not just babysitting or lawn mowing), was accepted as a valid substitute.

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      • Joe J says:

        Well said.

        ” I’m grateful to the employers who are willing to mold them into valuable workers”

        But I’d say half mold into valuable workers , half filter out the bad ones.

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  4. RobotGraveDancer says:

    The current case is about 21 year olds. The first sentence of the article points out that if they win the case for 21 year olds they will try to have it applied to teens.

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  5. charlotte m says:

    …and yet to call them adults when they can stay on our insurance policies until they are 25? My 16 yr old has a job and I am grateful they will train her and allow her to gain experience before she moves out and has no familial support. This makes her chances of being successful so much higher in the long run. They get cheaper labor, she gets training and experience: win-win. Anyone could see how she would be able to better contribute as an adult. What’s the problem?

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  6. keith kube says:

    18 year olds are adults in Australia. The unions are trying to change when an adult is treated as a second class vs first class adult.

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  7. Pseudonym says:

    I have a suspicion that Pete Seeger didn’t have Adam Smith in mind when he wrote that lyrics.

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  8. Murph says:

    The real question is are they in fact “doing the same work”, experienced individuals frequently (although not always) bring more to the job. Working isn’t necessarily just about what you do, but how you do it, how you plan it, how you foresee and avoid problems. Experience is frequently an undervalued commodity and then again it is equally often an overvalued one. In the end though payment should be related to production, are you getting the job done? That should be the basis of remuneration, after all it is the basis for remuneration of everyone who is self employed.

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    • Russell says:

      The union case is about minimum wage, all employers can freely pay more than that minimum as a basis and/or to reward effort/ability and many do. Not surprisingly the employers that pay more attract the better employees, the other employers prefer the peanuts/monkeys model and suffer accordingly.

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