Who Foots the Bill for Low-Wage Work? We All Do
In the debate over whether New Jersey voters should approve a modest increase in the state’s minimum wage this November, we’ve heard a lot about who the raise would impact. Supporters like NJPP point to the hundreds of thousands of low-wage workers who’d see millions of dollars in increased wages. Opponents point to businesses that they claim would see catastrophic effects (this despite the fact that history proves otherwise).
But low-wage work has an impact on all of us in a way we don’t often think of.
The public costs of low-wage jobs are enormous, as workers not being paid enough by their bosses to get by often turn to taxpayer-funded safety net programs to make ends meet, according to a report issued this week by the University of California’s Institute for Research on Labor and Employment. In New Jersey, the cost of public assistance for core front-line fast-food workers and their families alone is $117 million a year.
Close to half of these New Jersey families (42 percent) rely on at least one safety net program to get by – far higher than the 25 percent share of the overall national workforce.
The bottom line: Giving these and hundreds of thousands of other low-wage New Jersey workers a raise next month won’t just help the workers, their families and New Jersey’s economy – it will also help transition some of them out of the safety net, ultimately resulting in savings for all of us.