Minimum wage rate boost helps, but still a long way to go

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Despite last week’s decision by the Fair Work Commission to lift the national minimum wage by 5.2 per cent, millions of Australians will continue to live in poverty and on survival wages, Francis Sullivan writes. Source: Eureka Street.

The facts are that the commission’s decision takes the minimum wage from $772 a week to $812, an increase of $5.70 a day, not a fortune but better than nothing.

And while the decision is welcome and turns around a decade of real wage cuts under the Coalition government, we are still living in society that is divided economically, culturally and very much in terms of opportunities.

Make no mistake, workers on low incomes and our nation’s most underprivileged will continue to struggle to make ends meet, they will struggle to pay the rent, to put food on the table, to cover health costs and to ensure their kids get the same opportunities as the rest of their classmates.

This is drawn into stark relief by the simple fact that the minimum wage continues to be around 20 per cent lower than the poverty line, which The Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research has set at $1091 for a family of four with one working adult. In what world do we think it is appropriate for the minimum wage to be below the poverty line for the average family?

Around 3 million working people and their families live in poverty, with roughly a third of people in poverty relying on wages as their main source of income.

One hundred and ten years ago Australia and New Zealand were the first two countries to establish minimum wages. But this has not guaranteed workers a quality standard of living.

Francis Sullivan AO is Chair of Catholic Social Services Australia and the Mater Group of hospitals. He was previously chief executive officer of the Truth, Justice and Healing Council.

FULL STORY

National wage decision gives low-income earners breathing space but still a long way to go (Eureka Street) 

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