Why upskilling and education is more important for those on minimum wage than a pay increase

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Increasing the minimum wage isn’t the silver bullet that people are hoping that it will be. In fact, it is likely that a widespread increase may boost inflation, leaving everybody worse off than before.

But the baseline problem is that we need to change the mentality that just because things cost more, our employer should automatically pay us more for the same work.

There are better strategies to aim for higher pay, such as upskilling and increasing your productivity — making you more valuable.

That said, we need to also consider those who often don’t have the path to upskilling; for example, single mums. They are on their own having to raise children, most often working casual while on benefits, trying to juggle bills and expenses.

They need to be assisted — and not just by increasing the minimum wage in the role that they’re in because that won’t help them in the long term. It is essentially a short-term fix.

We don’t want single mums just on minimum wage for the rest of their life. We want to skill them up. We want them to realise their true potential. And whatever it is that they wanted to be or want to be, we should help them with that. That’s why we need assistance in areas of childcare.

What mechanisms can we put in place to ensure they have the time and access to study, to be able to upskill? To get whatever they need to secure a better job or a promotion.

We need to increase the opportunities and open the doors for those who have potential to take off and realise their true potential.

Another factor we need to consider is that a large proportion of these women are employed in small businesses that are already teetering on the brink of unsustainability. Having those businesses reduce staff numbers — or close altogether — simply puts employees back on unemployment benefits, stalling their careers and increasing their financial instability.

A similar situation is faced by mature employees who will not be able to maintain their lives on a pension if they stop working. Again, there seems to be a disproportionate ratio of women who find themselves homeless and living in poverty in their retirement years.

We need to also find pathways for them to access upskilling and education that can make them more valuable in the employment market. Needless to say, those paths could also be opened to those who are already on pensions but who would welcome a rewarding job rather than continuing on welfare of any kind.

There is no silver bullet. What we need is a complete foundational rethink to lift people out of employment stagnation, and increase their value. That’s the true solution.


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