About Living Wage
The Living Wage rate for Just Economics is increasing in 2015. For more information about how we calculate the living wage rate and how increases are made.
What is a Living Wage?
A “living wage” is the minimum amount that a worker must earn to afford his or her basic necessities, without public or private assistance. In short, a living wage is the real, just, minimum wage.
The living wage for a single individual living in Western North Carolina for 2015 is$12.50/hour without employer provided health insurance, or $11.00/hour with health insurance provided by the employer. This amounts to $26,000/year without benefits,or $22,880/year with benefits, assuming a 40-hour work week, 52 weeks a year.
Why isn’t Minimum Wage Enough?
The federal minimum wage was enacted through the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which purpose was to eliminate “labor conditions detrimental to the maintenance of the minimum standard of living necessary for health, efficiency and general well-being of workers.” Despite these intentions, the federal minimum wage has failed to keep up with the rising cost of living, and has instead become a wage that keeps working people in poverty.
Although the dollar amount (nominal value) of minimum wage has increased over time, it now takes more dollars to purchase the same goods and services, so the real value of minimum wage has actually decreased since 1960. In 1968, the value of minimum wage was equivalent to $10 today- that’s almost a living wage!
The increase of the federal minimum wage to $7.25 in 2009 was applauded by many, but because of inflation the real value of minimum wage today is still much lower than it ought to be in order the maintain “the minimum standard of living.
Living Wages Benefit the Local Economy:
- Living wages are part of a broad effort to end poverty and inequity, and work towards a more just and sustainable local economy.
- Living wages reduce wage inequality by strengthening low-wage workers’ bargaining power in the job market.
- Living wages enable working people to become self-sufficient and rely less on social services. Today, 28% of families in Buncombe County receiving food assistance work full-time. For working people to receive federal assistance is both counterintuitive and counterproductive- only a fraction of every tax dollar allocated to social services directly assists recipients of aid, while 100% of wages do.
- Wage increases do not lead to job loss. A 1998 EPI study failed to find any systematic, significant job loss associated with the1996-97 minimum wage increase. In fact, the study found that following the increase, the low-wage labor market performed better than it had in decades (e.g., lower unemployment rates, increased average hourly wages, increased family income, decreased poverty rates).
- Living wages stimulate the economy through increased consumer spending and the money multiplier effect.
- Out of our 2,500-person workforce, nearly 1,500 are hourly employees in the U.S., working in our customer care call centers in Texas, Utah and Arizona. The competition for talent is fierce and it’s important that we attract bright, motivated people to come work at Endurance. The battle for talent in the technology industry is notorious and it’s critical that we stay competitive. Paying a living wage isn’t just a nice thing to do for our employees, it’s an absolute requirement for us if we want to stay in business and keep the lights on.
At Endurance, the results of our commitment to a living wage show. Our employees are happier, more productive and staying longer with the company. Last month, I visited our call center in Tempe, Arizona and a young man came up to me after a presentation to say he was grateful that we paid more than his last minimum wage-paying job. With the extra money he earned, he had proposed to his girlfriend and they were moving in together, something he said he would never have considered if he were still at his last job.
- What is a “Living Wage”?
A “living wage” is a wage that would enable a full-time, full-year employee to provide basic necessities for his or her family (typically taken to be a spouse and two dependents) without public assistance and in or near the community of his or her employment. Basic necessities include adequate shelter, basic utilities (gas, electric, phone, water), food, transportation, clothing, essential toiletries, basic household goods, healthcare and childcare. The amount of a living wage will vary from geographic area to geographic area, sometimes from community to community. It is always significantly higher than the federal minimum wage. The federal minimum wage is not and was never conceived of as a living wage standard. It aims simply to prevent the most severe forms of economic exploitation by setting a floor below which wages cannot fall in the national labor market.
Why is it important that workers are insured a living wage?
The basic idea is simple: full-time honest labor ought to earn a person enough to live and raise a small family with dignity and without “means-tested” public assistance in or near the community of his or her employment. If we are not committed to this proposition, then the welfare reform and entitlement cutbacks of the last decade are little more than a cruel joke.