Posted tagged ‘Jobs’

A two minimum wage proposal

June 13, 2017

Minimum wage, the lowest wage that hourly employees earn, is a controversial issue. Supporters of minimum wage laws believe that it helps lift people out of poverty and reduce income inequality (the gap between higher-income and lower-income people). Opponents of minimum wage laws believe that it reduces the number of new jobs and raises prices, as businesses adjust for higher labor and payroll costs.

Rather than debating the value of the minimum wage, I would like to propose that we create two categories of wages: minimum wages and minimum living wages.

The minimum wage would be the lowest wage that entry-level, unskilled employees earn. It means that businesses could limit their up-front investment in an employee who will only be temporary.

The minimum living wage would be the lowest wage for more experienced, skilled employees who have worked part-time or full-time for an business for over one year. It would put into law the current practice of offering employees raises during annual performance reviews.

Businesses take most of the risks when hiring entry-level employees, so it makes sense to offer a lower minimum wage. Businesses must conduct interviews, offer job training, fill out employment paperwork, trust employees to show up on time and do the job.

Of course, new employees take risks as well – that the paperwork will be correct and that they will get paid – but there is less uncertainty in accepting the job, especially if a business has been around for a few years. Employees have the reassurance of visiting the business and seeing how it works before accepting the job.

After one year on the job, wages could be increased to the minimum living wage, a higher wage that is closer to what employees need to live and work in the area. The minimum living wage could also be tied to increased benefits, such as additional vacation time, family leave, retirement plans, or continuing education subsidies.

This one-year minimum living wage probation allows businesses to evaluate the employee’s skills and fit with the company. It also allows employees to decide whether they want to keep working for the company and gives them job experience if they decide to look for a new job.

A good business with sound finances will voluntarily offer raises the employees who show up and work hard, even if they can’t offer raises every year. While there is always the risk that an unscrupulous or poorly-managed business will fire employees before the one-year mark to avoid paying a higher wage, those businesses would suffer from higher job turnover, constant training, and poor reputation.

Do you think that two minimum wages would be an effective compromise between employees and businesses? What do you think of minimum wage laws?

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Job+housing ideas for Hawaii

August 2, 2016

Job+housing Ideas

In Hawaii, we don’t only have a housing problem. We have a jobs-and-housing problem. It’s not enough to find people affordable housing. People need jobs so that they can afford their affordable housing.

Unfortunately, most of our public assistance programs address either job training or homelessness, but not both. The Hawaii Department of Labor and Industrial Relations has over 1500 job training programs from 42 “eligible training providers” (ETPs). The Hawaii Department of Human Services coordinates 22 agencies, 13 emergency shelters, and 32 traditional shelters across the state. We have rent subsidies, public housing, and weekly “cleanups” to clear public sidewalks.

I believe that we need more programs to assist with housing and employment. I thought about Hawaii’s current job market (tourism), Hawaii’s recent history (plantations), and Hawaii’s isolated geography. Here are 3 off-the-cuff ideas that combine jobs and housing.

Hotel room and board program. In Hawaii, tourism is one of our largest industries, employing over 150,000 people in 2010, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority. We could create new property tax categories to allow hotels and resorts to set aside a limited number of rooms for employees. Hotels could pay a lower wage in return for providing a room, or receive a small tax credit by offering rooms to employees at subsidized rates. Hotels could even set aside an entire floor for employees, who could apply for a room by showing financial hardship.

Public parks caretakers. In Honolulu alone, the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) manages 290 named parks on 5,200 acres of land, employing over 1,800 people. To help maintain the parks and deter vandalism, the DPR could create a “Park Caretaker” program for larger staffed parks. Similar to a plantation community, one or two families could live in caretaker cabins, as long as at least one member of the household is employed by the park.

Job relocation program. Hawaii is an expensive place to live and the job market is limited. Sometimes we have to make the hard decision to move to cities where there are jobs and companies are desperate for qualified workers. A job relation program could help people find jobs in other states with larger job markets and more affordable housing. We could help individuals with resume writing, job applications, interviews, business attire, moving expenses, finding a first apartment, and even enrolling in schools. Teams of 2-5 individuals or families could even go through the job relocation program together, moving to the same city at the same time, perhaps initially living as roommates. They would become a built-in support network for advice, friendship, and even emergency babysitting.

What housing programs you consider successful in Hawaii? Do you think that Hawaii is doing a good job of addressing the affordable housing issue? Is it government’s responsibility to find homes for everyone?