One of the old saws that the Right brings out whenever the topic of increasing the minimum wage comes up is ‘oh no, it will increase unemployment’. They said it this year. The Business Roundtable said it every year as the Fifth Labour Government put up the minimum wage and unemployment kept falling. Hell, they probably screamed it when, in 1975, the Third Labour Government nearly doubled the minimum wage to $12.46 in today’s dollars, and were mystified when unemployment didn’t skyrocket.
In fact, the neoliberal consensus among economists that minimum wages are bad news has been unravelling for decades. In 1978, 90% of economist agreed the minimum wage increases unemployment. By 1990, 62.4% fully agreed and 17.5% disagreed. In 2000, only 45.6% (I’m guessing the older ones) still wholeheartedly thought the minimum wage increases unemployment and 26.5% thought otherwise. The numbers are probably still dropping and there is growing evidence of no relationship between unemployment and minimum wages. It is simply not a truth universally acknowledged by economists that the minimum wage increases unemployment.
It is only in the bonehead world of the rightwing pundit or editor that it is taken as gospel that raising the minimum wage increases unemployment. But, wouldn’t you know it, those annoying facts don’t agree. Check out the minimum wage and unemployment rates from 1970 to 2009:
[Positive correlations go from 0 to 1. The higher, the stronger the relationship. 0.05 is so laughably low that there’s probably more relationship between the colour of my shirt on a given day and the weather in Ulan Bator than between the minimum wage and unemployment in New Zealand]
Face it, the Right isn’t worried that about low-paid Kiwis losing their jobs. Low income Kiwis don’t even exist in their imaginations (go on, righties, guess the median income without peeking, and remember 50% of people are poorer than that). No, the Right is interested in bigger profits and bigger salaries for the bosses.
At the end of the day, there’s only so much pie to go around at any one time. Cutting bigger slices for the working poor means slightly smaller slices for the well-off, and that’s what the Right is against.