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I have had a strong interest in the social welfare of people since I was a young adult. I frequently watch documentaries and reality shows that highlight the daily challenges that regular people experience. My interest in labor laws is very strong, especially American labor laws. These regulations primarily place emphasis on the idea of minimum wage, which denotes the lowest amount of money paid to a worker in exchange for their labor. It is a pricing floor that firms must abide by when determining how much to pay their employees. I find this idea intriguing, and I frequently find myself drawn to programs that explore these circumstances in great detail and how people deal with them (Yamada 43). When I was assigned the task to write an ethnographic research paper, I decided to explore the idea if minimum wage. I experienced a lot of trouble trying to identify a program that sufficiently addressed the issue of people living with minimum wage. After a strong recommendation from some friends, I decided to watch the first episode of the reality show “30 days” which premiered back in 2005. I had a lot of free time, so I keenly observed the program which evoked a myriad of feelings in me from the different cultures that the characters had to cope with (Rattenhuber). This reality proved to be the best reference for my ethnographic research.
I assume that living with minimum wage is somewhat cumbersome and does not allow for comfortable social life. I have a firm belief that to improve the living conditions of the working class society in America. There is the urgent need to raise the minimum wage. My goal is to expose the hardships that employees go through and wake the federal government to address this issue (Yamada 46).
“30 Days” was the reality show on FX, a cable network in America. It was a creation of Morgan Spurlock who was also the host. In each episode, Morgan and his fiancé indulged in different lifestyles to get a feel for the prevailing conditions. In the first event, the couple wants to experience how it feels like to live with minimum wage for 30 days. They are eager to know if they can hack the lifestyle. To make the situation more practical and realistic, they the couple freeze their bank accounts and lock their credit cards. They withdraw 356 dollars to act as the start-up money. Further, they move to the Ohio, the heart of Midwest, from their flashy lifestyles in New York. Ohio mirrors the lives of ordinary Americans (Rattenhuber).
The couple moves into an unfurnished apartment costing about 325 dollars monthly. The apartment is located near a convenient place named the Bottoms. The landlord informs them that the previous tenant was a street person and just below the condo is a crack house. The area is cold and it is evident that the situation is disturbing and uncomfortable for Morgan and his bride, Alex. They are also nervous because they are forced to travel around by bus (Pacheco 589).
The minimum wage in the United States of American had not increased since 1997, and a lot of poor people in the country earned less than the amount of money paid in mid-seventies. One of Morgan colleagues laments that he is making less money than he used to 29 years earlier (Swaffield 388).
Alex and Morgan perform mc jobs which entail making pizza, cleaning the dishes and making boxes. These duties take a toll on them, and they suffer injuries and illnesses. Due to the lack of health insurance, they are forced to choose between going to one of the free clinics in Ohio which are often overcrowded and the health workers overwhelmed, or make a trip to the emergency room. In a queue at the free hospital, they encounter a couple suffering from diabetes who recount that they are blatantly unable to get health insurance. Hence, the free clinic is their saviour. According to them, they would be lost without the free clinic.
Due to too much pain, Morgan and Alex decide to rush to the emergency room where the hospital bills are quite crippling. They lament how they do not understand how people survive with minimum wage. This documentary is among the films that depict the horrors of living with a low minimum wage. It shows how life in this kind of conditions veers way off the poverty line. However, Alex and Morgan show an admirable character of whole heatedly delving into a low paying job in an attempt to explain the hardships that people undergo in the wealthiest country in the world (Pacheco 596). They are unable to understand how people survive these kinds of conditions their whole life.
Observational Data and Analysis
In the United States of America, the minimum wage was introduced to prevent women and children from joining the workforce during the Great Depression. Later, it became entitled to the general workforce. Policymakers have been debating on the issue of increasing the minimum wage due to the adverse conditions experienced by the working class. Moreover, the matter is sensitive as it draws the line between the oppression of hired hands and their exploitation (Swaffield 393).
Almost 31 million of Americans live off of the minimum wage. This amount constitutes 7.25 dollars per hour. I feel that it is unconscionable as it does not cut the expensive life. Even working a whole week, it is almost impossible to scrape enough money to cater for the basic needs and access adequate social amenities. Often those who earn this amount each hour are forced to work multiple jobs in a bid to survive. The others struggle to work more hours to amass enough money for the essentials. Moreover, some cope through getting help from the family and government subsidies. I have observed that lowly paid people are unable to pay their rent on time and they subsequently end up living in rundown apartments which are cheap enough for them. The couple in 30 days only survives living in an affordable apartment that is somehow conducive to living (Machin et al. 155).
In 2014, almost 77.2 percent of the workers who are 16 years old and above survived through hourly jobs. This number represents 58.7 percent of all labourers receiving wages. Nearly 1.7 million of individuals earned a minimum wage that is below the amount stipulated by the federal government.
Millions of Americans work odd jobs with little pay and close to no benefits. The reality show portrays the struggles that these families face. They serve food, clean, care for the elderly and deliver pizza. Year in year families do these jobs to pay off student loans and bills. I am a firm believer that the more individual work, the more they should receive in compensation. I am hoping for a bright future where the minimum wage is raised to already 10 dollars an hour. The raise will go a long way in benefiting a vast number of staffs. Hence, it will be the key to root out workers from the hardships they encounter, save taxpayers money and facilitate the development of the economy (Machin et al. 159).
Over the years, the rich have experienced a considerable increase in their gross income. While the poor and the middle class faced stagnancy in their pay and wages hence a steep decline in the salary. This factor has led to a scenario where the rich acquire more and more wealth. Subsequently, the poor continue to be needy thus widening this gap and establishing a disproportionate share of power in the economy. The rich enjoy superior healthcare benefits and the poor otherwise.
Like poverty, the economic gap is inevitable. To confront this horror, I advocate for the federal government to come up with development policies that ensure all states adhere to a higher amount of minimum wage for the employees. A good starting point is to observe the living conditions of the poor in the country and then raise a fruitful debate on concerning the issue of increasing the minimum wage (Machin et al. 164).
People who receive low wages live in all corners of the country doing all types of odd jobs. However, the lowly paid tend to be more concentrated in specific localities. Of the most affected regions there include New York, the urban and rural areas of California and the Midwest among the others. Despite the fact, there are individual districts where workers have the privilege of earning a higher salary. It constitutes the upper east side of Los Angeles and the highly rural Texas. The areas where the latter suffer from the fate of low wages are mostly urban. Thus, they are faced with significant challenges due to the high cost of living (Yamada 48).
I feel that a rise in the minimum wage will bring more benefits to hired hands and the country. An increase will reduce the strain experienced by families thus a rapid economic growth. Scientists have discovered that incrementing people’s wages provides the consumer with a higher purchasing power and consequently results in positive ripples in the overall economy. The economic success will lead to the creation of up to 140,000 new jobs.
I have realized that companies which have adopted the tradition of paying their workers high wages possess the ability to buy more products and expand their businesses and are consequently successful. Some of these companies include Walt Disney and Gap companies among the others. I believe that if employers follow this trend, the labourers will have a much better life (Machin et al. 171).
Increasing the minimum wage is important because it is the necessity for a vast majority of Americans. They have been demanding an expanded day-in-day out. Polls have shown that a significant number of Americans are in support raising the wage. This amount constitutes almost two-thirds of the country’s population. Most adults are blatantly willing to support a candidate who has the goal of solving the issue of minimum wage. Efforts to pressure this augmentation are strengthening along with hired hands continually striking and demonstrating. The latter consider the raise as a show of fairness and concern for the American people.
Another benefit of increasing the salary is the fact that it will reduce the weight load on taxpayers and the demand for government programs. From the reality show, the characters show how the working class highly depends on government subsidies confirming my theory. Statistically, lowly paid employees receive almost 243 dollars each as federal government benefits. Many workers depend on food stamps and government assistance in health facilities among other areas. However, most people prefer possessing the ability to paying for them rather than depending on the federal aid. Finally, the issue of raising the salary has been long overdue and ought to be implemented. Current compensation has blatantly failed to keep up with inflation and has led to a high level of inequalities among citizens. Average workers rarely benefit from economic growth thus a raise will keep them at per (Yamada 50).
During the President Obama’s term, there were a lot of talks to consider increasing the minimum wage to 10.10 dollars per hour. While the government claimed it would be more beneficial, the opposition felt that it would be detrimental to the economy and lead to loss of almost 500,000 jobs. Essentially, every venture comes with its cons (Rattenhuber).
The most immediate con would be an expansion in the number of layoffs. An employer may not have adequate resources to lay for a highly compensated worker. Subsequently, the need to cut down the number of employees may augment in a bid to work within the stipulated budget. Furthermore, accretion the salary may result in inflation as the companies raise the price of their products to cater for the high wages. Consequently, this situation may lead to a ripple effect in other shops and industries thus a high cost of living. The latter brings to another claim for growing the minimum cycle. It becomes a vicious cycle.
A raise would also guide to a drop in the number of labourers hired yearly as employers are unable to afford the salaries for the majority of them. This condition would also steer into outsourcing labour from countries where staff is more willing to work for a lesser minimum wage. As a result, the job opportunities for Americans profoundly decrease heading to high levels of unemployment among the American citizens. I also feel that an increase in the wages would also result in intense competition amongst workers as overqualified individuals will be applying for the same jobs with those with close to no qualifications due to high salaries. This situation is adverse as it robs the poorly qualified people the opportunity to get jobs and acquire knowledge and experience. Hence, they may be unable to resume to the workforce (Rattenhuber).
I feel that despite all the potential negative outcomes of augmenting the pay-check, there are a myriad of the ways that the employers can use to avert a situation where jobs are lost. Instead of resulting in cut-downs, employers could reduce turnovers, adjust the salaries of high earners in the company and put more efforts in increasing efficiencies. This step will not only be helpful to the workers but also to the company, as it will be able to stick to the stipulated budget.
I am obliged to recognize that as much as I am a champion of increasing the minimum wage, it would not be significantly crucial in lowering the poverty levels in America. This argument is because a small percentage of the poor are involved in the workforce. Therefore, an increase in wages would only benefit a few individuals. About 900,000 hired hands constitute just a tiny portion of the 16.5 million poor people in the United States. Most of these people do not work. Hence, they would not benefit.
To sum up, the minimum wage has been discussed for years with no apparent changes. Americans have suffered from this issue and continue to do. Even after recognizing some of the negative results, I believe that it is important for the employees to receive more than they do today. From the reality show, the characters have portrayed the impossibility that comes with minimum wage. Policies and bills ought to be passed to help the American workers. To diminish the poverty levels, those not working need to be innovative to better our economy (Machin et al. 179). The show “30 Days” aroused a lot of concerns in me, and I feel that the government and individuals need to work harder in addressing this concept. Eventually, her economy is what makes America great.
There are many myths arising from the concept of minimum wages. Some claim that increasing the amount will primarily benefit teenagers who are in the workforce giving them extra money to indulge in other unacceptable things. However, I feel that a vast majority of adults who essentially depend on their pay-check will be the primary benefiters. It is high time we bury the misconception that raising the salary would lead to a decrease and loss of job opportunities. It is evident from the states who have taken a step in this direction that this belief is a pure myth that bears little ground.
I believe that despite all the potential negative results, we owe it to the working-class to augment the salary. Minimum wage is an effective and proven technique to ensure that the working poor are under federal protection. Thus, they are on the way to prevent the market forces from reducing wages to a highly unacceptable level. There are many researchers who have come up with the same findings that minimum wages should be increased. I am of the opinion that the Congress should take them into account and act accordingly. Even after adding the amount, it is obliged to index the minimum pay-check to assure that the wages of the poor keep with the constantly changing state of the economy. Then, they avoid being subjects of prolonged inaction which deepens the poor into further poverty.
I believe that the American government has the responsibility to protect the well-being of the working class. A step in this direction will be significant and shape a better future for the country’s economy. America will be great again when the workers who constitute more than half of the population are taken care of.
Machin, Stephen, Alan Manning, and Lupin Rahman. “Where the Minimum Wage Bites Hard: Introduction of Minimum Wages to a Low Wage Sector.” Journal of the European Economic Association, vol. 1, no. 1, Mar. 2003, pp. 154-180. Oxford University Press, doi:10.1162/154247603322256792.
Pacheco, Gail. “Estimating Employment Impacts with Binding Minimum Wage Constraints.” Economic Record, vol. 87, no. 279, 14 Mar. 2011, pp. 587-602. Wiley-Blackwell, doi:10.1111/j.1475-4932.2011.00722.x.
Rattenhuber, Pia. “Building the Minimum Wage: Germany’s First Sectoral Minimum Wage and its Impact on Wages in the Construction Industry.” DIW Berlin Discussion Paper No. 1111, Mar. 2011, doi:10.2139/ssrn.1793166.
Swaffield, Joanna K. “Minimum Wage Hikes and the Wage Growth of Low-Wage Workers.” Bulletin of Economic Research, vol. 66, no. 4, 15 Nov. 2013, pp. 384-405. Wiley-Blackwell, doi:10.1111/boer.12018.
Yamada, Hiroyuki. “Non-Compliance with the Minimum Wage Law When Completely New Minimum Wage Laws are Established: The Case of South Africa.” African Development Review, vol. 24, no. 1, 7 Mar. 2012, pp. 41-51. Wiley-Blackwell, doi:10.1111/j.1467-8268.2011.00304.x.
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