People Management
4 min.

No One Wants to Work for Minimum Wage Anymore

Véronique Forest
Last updated on 22 Dec. 2023
Published on 14 Jun. 2022
Very skinny piggy bank
Very skinny piggy bank

Minimum wage is the lowest wage an employer can offer an employee without infringing on their rights.

Table of contents

Many workers are looking for higher salaries than the minimum established by law, especially in the midst of a labour shortage. They know that companies will do anything to recruit staff—so they have all the freedom in the world to find an employer who will offer them something better.

On the flipside, an employer who offers more than minimum wage is sending a clear message that they value their employees’ time and effort. These employers understand that their business’s success relies on the quality of the work done by their employees. And they are willing to pay their team members accordingly.

The societal objectives of minimum wage

Minimum wage was adopted by governments to protect the rights of workers in difficulty times and to ensure a better distribution of wealth in more prosperous times.

Indeed, minimum wage prevents companies from exploiting workers or drastically reducing wages in times of crisis (e.g., a recession or war).

It also ensures that businesses share a portion of the profits with the workers who helped create the wealth when the economy is faring well.

Anything but a benchmark

Minimum wage was never intended as a minimum threshold that would ensure a decent standard of living for workers. It’s not a benchmark. Instead, it’s best understood as a temporary safety net, a minimal form of protection against egregious abuse.

According to the experts of the Chair in Taxation and Public Finance at the Université de Sherbrooke, minimum wage doesn’t allow an individual to live decently. Instead, it enables people to survive and to support themselves to the best of their ability while tightening their belts.

Minimum wage, minimum effort?

The term “minimum wage” is misleading. Let’s drop this euphemism and call a cat a cat—it’s the worst possible salary.

In a job offer, would you dare to say that you offer the worst possible salary? Probably not. Yet this is exactly what many companies do.

The message you are sending your candidates is that you will only do the minimum for them. Let’s reverse the situation: How would you judge a candidate who admitted to doing only the bare minimum at work?

The employment relationship must be a two-way street. You can’t expect your employees to do their best work if you’re offering them nothing more than the minimum required by law.

Offering more than minimum wage isn’t always possible

This being said, I am well aware that some small SMEs are simply not in a position to offer higher salaries, especially if they are just starting operations. However, once they are better established, they have a duty to improve working conditions for their employees.

In fact, companies should make it a priority to raise their employees’ salaries when they achieve positive results. After all, without them, organizations would not be as successful. And if this is not an option, then the business model needs to be revised, in my opinion.

On the other hand, big companies that offer mediocre wages even as their profits are soaring should be ashamed of themselves.

It is staggering how much money is made on the backs of minimum wage employees.

The fact is that companies that have taken the leap and increased salaries rarely regret it. Their employees are more loyal, committed and motivated—and this in turn produces multiple positive spinoffs.

Showing appreciation for employees’ work

Recognizing employees’ work is not only a matter of paying them properly, but also offering them good working conditions.

In this day and age, companies must rethink the way they do business in order to better meet the needs of their employees. Here are a few examples of inspiring practices you can adopt:

  • Offer regular pay raises to reward employee performance. Forget about annual evaluations and be proactive by conducting performance evaluations more frequently
  • Build a strong corporate culture
  • Don’t make minimum wage workers the basis of your business model
  • Offer flexible schedules so employees can have a better work-life balance

People-first management

As we have seen, no one seems to want to work for minimum wage anymore. And this is a good thing.

Employees’ new expectations are pushing companies to rethink the way they do business in order to improve their relations with their employees. And in this context, companies that are unwilling to be more person-focused will be the big losers.

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