James Surowiecki tackles the fast food low wage debate this week by looking at the shift in the American economy in the last few decades, the key thing being that fast food jobs were never considered the kind of jobs a person would take to support a family until fairly recently (fast food jobs were mostly dominated by teens who used the money to buy stuff and go to the movies). Manufacturing and factory jobs were where people used to go to find a job that paid a decent enough salary to raise a family, but as we've seen, those jobs are quickly disappearing while the retail and fast food business are now becoming America's biggest employers. They've done this by doing what they've always done—pay people low wages, and not keeping up with inflation (in 1968, the minimum wage was $10.70 in inflation-adjusted dollars).
Bloomberg Businessweek has a fun graphic looking at the minimum wage by the numbers in the U.S. and a few other countries.
In Australia, cigarettes are heavily taxed and a law was passed six months ago requiring graphic images and warnings to be placed on packaging. According to the Times, almost immediately after the graphic images were put on tobacco products, smokers complained that the cigarettes tasted off. A few theories emerged: 1) That the graphic images created a psychological effect that made cigarettes taste bad so people wouldn't buy them anymore, which is what anti-smoking advocates are hoping, and 2) To make up for declining sales due to high taxes and the new rules governing tobacco, cigarette companies are sourcing their tobacco someplace where they can get it for cheaper.
The Australian education system and me.
Since 1992, Australia has had compulsory superannuation (AKA "super"), which is somewhat comparable to a 401(k) in the United States. Currently employers in Australia have to pay 9 percent of worker’s wages (this is not taken from your wages, this is on top of your wages) into a nominated super fund. Soon this amount will rise to 9.25 percent and over the next seven years head on up to 12 percent. There are some exceptions to this compulsory payment—if the employee is under 18 years old, over 70 years old, or earning less than $450.00 per month.