Most people’s first job is a minimum wage, part-time gig to get some experience, so any part-time students might be stoked to hear the minimum wage in Washington just rose to $13.50. But it might sting later when inflation kicks in.
As of Jan. 1, the minimum wage in Washington state increased from $12 to $13.50 per hour, and even higher in metropolitan areas like Seattle, where it is $15 per hour. Four years ago, Initiative 1433 set the steady increase of minimum wage from 2016 to 2020 in order to, theoretically, allow the economy to grow by giving all socioeconomic groups more money to contribute.
Implementing the final minimum wage increase of Initiative 1433 in Washington could facilitate a more stable and livable economy for lower-class workers for now, but could also be leading the same people to a double-edged sword down the road.
In 2021, the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries will adjust minimum wage based on the cost of living, as opposed to the other way around, which is how it has been for the last four years.
For now, Initiative 1433 is allowing minimum-wage workers to afford things they might not have been able to afford as easily before, because the minimum wage rose before the cost of living did. But going into 2021, there won’t be as much certainty and stability.
Initiative 1433 has been allowing low-income households to keep up with the economy, but once the minimum wage moves as it pleases, the stability could potentially lose its support and the same cycle will begin again.
The deficits of the rising minimum wage are more likely to affect the lower class, anyone teetering between the lower-middle class line and young students trying to make their first couple of bucks.
When the labor costs increase, employers will need to find the means to make up the numbers. In order for that to work, one of two things needs to happen: the prices of the products increase or employees' hours need to be cut.
In the long term, the rising minimum wage could lower the employment rate and increase the socioeconomic gap.
In the short term, Washington’s growing minimum wage is beneficial to the economy and those contributing to it, but could be equally as detrimental in the long run if inflation rises in 2021 when the minimum wage changes according to the economy.