Last month, the House GOP unanimously voted down a proposed increase to the minimum wage. The proposal would have raised the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour over two years. Not only does this hurt business, it also disproportionally hurts women.
Women make up nearly two-thirds of all minimum wage workers. Therefore the minimum wage IS a women’s issue. A woman working full-time, year-round at minimum wage will earn just $14,500 annually. Over 40% of women are the primary breadwinners for their household and single motherhood is steadily rising. Women have to work to support their families. A single working mother of two who makes $14,500 a year is $4000 below the poverty line. Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 would increase take home pay by $5,700 for an annual $20,200 lifting that family of three out of poverty.
A working mother whose income is below the poverty line qualifies for public assistance programs (like food stamps and Medicaid) and relies on them in order to survive. Public assistance programs are acting as subsidies for a living wage. Why not just raise the minimum wage to a living wage? On top of decreasing the number of women and families needing public assistance, because women make up the majority of minimum-wage workers, increasing the minimum wage would help close the gender wage gap. Which, as it stands now, is a woman earns 77 cents for every dollar a man does. The gender wage gap is even worse for women of color: black women make 64 cents and Hispanic women 55 cents for every dollar their white male counterparts make. Increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would help narrow the gender pay gap.
Increasing the minimum wage would not only benefit women but the entire economy. Raising the minimum wage puts money into the pockets of workers who need it the most, resulting in a direct increase in their purchasing power. Low-income workers immediately spend their money on goods that had been too expensive to buy prior to their wage increase, putting their wages directly back into the economy. Research shows that for every $1 raise to the minimum wage, low-wage households spend an additional $2,800 the next year. During the proposed two-year phase-in period for the increase in the minimum wage, the GDP would increase by nearly $32.6 billion dollars, resulting in a projected net increase of 140,000 jobs.
Anyway you slice it, increasing the minimum wage is good. While this latest proposal to increase the minimum wage failed at the hands of House Republicans, there is still a faint glimmer of hope; The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013 (H.R. 1010/S. 460) was referred to committee in both houses in March. Increasing the minimum wage would not only benefit women but would be good for the US economy.