This week the Australian Fair Work Commission decided on the increase to Australia’s minimum wage. After much debate and to-ing and fro-ing, the figure arrived at was $15.80 per week.
This means that those Australians earning minimum wage (all 1.5 million of them) are due a payrise. Yay!
But it’s only fifteen bucks a week. Boo!
Depends who you ask.
According to various business-types, it’s an excessive rise and guaranteed to affect job stability and blah blah blah yadda yadda yadda.
According to students, youth councils, and other representative groups, it’s a kick in the teeth for hard-working young Aussies just trying to get ahead and blah blah blah yadda yadda yadda.
So, which is it?
When I heard the news, I felt the familiar stirring of Youth Pride and Teen Angst stirring in my gut. Yeah! F the man! We deserve more! Let’s have us a protest!
But when I tried to stand up in solidarity, my knees locked and I realised that I’m more Creepy Middle Aged Woman Holding On To Lost Youth than Youth Crusader For Justice.
And that got me thinking.
The fact is $15.80 a week isn’t much. You can’t buy a movie ticket for that price. You can’t buy a six-pack of beer. You can’t even pay the cover charge to get into some nightclubs. It’s a paltry amount.
But $15.80 a week is $821.60 per year.
For a small business with three employees, that’s an extra $2500 dollars a year in wages. The unions were asking for twice that amount, which is excessive when you think about it from the small business owner perspective.
So is the raise too low?
The youth radio station I was listening to certainly seemed to think so. They made quite a joke of the whole thing. “I want to hear from you,” the DJ said. “Tell me what you’ll spend your extra $15.80 a week on. Bonus points if you come up with something that costs exactly $15.80.”
And as people called and texted and tweeted in with their answers (Fake dreadlocks! A McDonald’s meal! A bath towel!), I got to thinking.
I’m not on minimum wage. In fact, I’m not on any wage. I’m a Mum who does some freelancing work on occasion, and dreams of selling enough books to buy a chain of deserted islands. So what could I buy with $15.80?
And this is what I came up with:
- Two loaves of home-brand white bread: $2.00
- One stick of home-brand butter: $1.90
- Two dozen home-brand free-range eggs: $7.90
- Four litres of unsweetened orange juice: $4.00
For $15.80, I can provide breakfast for a family of four for a week.
It’s funny, isn’t it? When you remove the instinctive Disaffected Youth Mentality reaction, the $15.80 pay-rise seems pretty damn reasonable.
Or maybe I’m just getting old.