Before discussing the effects of minimum wage, here’s a basic explanation of what the term actually means. “The basic labour standard that sets the lowest wage rate an employer can pay to employees who are covered by the employment legislation is known as minimum wage. The main purpose to impose minimum wage is to protect non-unionized workers in unskilled jobs today. In Canada, Employment legislation considers it an offense for any employers to pay covered workers less than minimum wage.”
Besides protecting Canadian employees from wage discrimination, what does the hike in minimum wages overtime mean for the Canadian employment market? According to the Canadian Federation of Independent business (CFIB), increasing the minimum wage hurts minimum wage workers “by reducing the businesses’ capacity to hire and retain them. In fact, the CFIB predicts that a 10 per cent increase in the minimum wage would trigger up to 321,000 job losses.”1 This statement does sound daunting for the many small businesses in Ontario, however history of minimum wage hikes shows that this in fact is not true. Between the period of 2007 and 2010, Ontario has raised its minimum wage 4 times and the unemployment rates have stayed the same, and have even decreased – except for 2009 during the economic crisis. Other provinces in Canada such as Quebec and Alberta have had similar experiences as well during the hike of minimum wages.
Moreover, outside of Canada there are examples of how minimum wage hikes can actually increase productivity. Seattle had victoriously increased their minimum wage to $15, imposing the highest minimum wage in the US. Following its path, San Francisco is intending on increasing their minimum wage to $15 as well. What does this mean for its workers? It means workers get paid for the hard work that they put in, and are not feeling as though the rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting poorer. This means that for example, fast food establishments that are known for high turnover will have a more stable workforce. “A major effect of raising pay checks for earners at the bottom of the wage scale is that these earners are likely to spend more of their income on local goods and service than higher-income earners. In turn, these households will increase patronage of area businesses, giving a boost to their community’s overall prosperity”2
Research conducted about minimum wage indicates how beneficial a hike in wage would be for workers. For small businesses that have to abide by the minimum wage hikes, keep in mind that this allows for retaining employees who are satisfied with their pay, and also provides a larger pool of skilled candidates looking for work – such as recent graduates. Although these increases are not large, it is still considered a wage increase for minimum wage workers. Increasing minimum wage does not necessarily lead to higher unemployment rates, but rather it has little or no impact on unemployment – which is always a positive for the Canadian labour market.