The Minimum Wage is Bad for Teens

Neighborhood jobs like paper routes have largely vanished, and fewer teens are working than ever.  Where can a kid learn to work these days?  photo: hot-dogma.com

Neighborhood jobs like paper routes have largely vanished, and fewer teens are working than ever.

How does a teen learn how to work these days?

By “learn to work,” I’m talking about being productive continually over many hours, deciding what to do when instructions don’t totally apply to a situation, stepping in to do some needed thing that’s not in the original job description, being courteous and responsive to customers, etc.

31 percent of all minimum wage workers are teenagers, ages 16-19, and yet the percentage of this group that is working is at a historic low of 25%.

Clearly, a kid doesn’t just show up for work the first time after 12 years of school, or even 16, and understand how to do these things. A high school or college graduate who has never worked at a job isn’t very valuable. That’s all there is to it.

These teens, as well as twentysomethings, desperately need job experience, not a higher wage. Their work may only be worth one dollar an hour or two or five, and if they got a job for that wage, they could learn the skills to earn seven or 10 or 15 dollars an hour.

Decades ago, kids had numerous job opportunities that effectively paid them less than minimum wage. Many of these jobs were neighborhood jobs, such as delivering newspapers, cutting lawns, babysitting, washing cars, shoveling snow, raking leaves, etc.

Today, these jobs have largely vanished.

When I was nine, I started working at my dad’s pharmacy, cleaning shelves, for 25 cents an hour. By the time I was 16, I was earning $3/hour, and I really was 12 times more valuable than I was at nine.

Kids and teens need far more opportunities to work at all wage levels, including levels far less than the current minimum wage. Raising the minimum wage would hurt them a lot. At the very least, there should be a lower minimum wage for teens aged 16-19, and no minimum wage for kids under 16.

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