I spoke to a staff at the restaurant where I had breakfast on Sunday. She is a student from overseas and is allowed to work 20 hours a week. She earns A$15 on weekdays and A$20 on weekends. I calculated that she must have earned A$1,500 a month on the part time work. She said that she has to pay taxes but I was told that the rate of tax is only 10% at her salary level (revised).
This is a good income for part time work. Many students are able to earn an income to pay for their education fees and also to have money to spend. They are hard working and provide courteous and good service. The high wage results in higher prices paid by consumers, but as the customers also earn a high income, they find the prices to be affordable.
The tourists may find the prices to be high, but this is also contributed by the high exchange rate. If the country is too costly and uncompetitive, the exchange rate can come down and the competitiveness can be restored.
A minimum wage ensures that all workers can earn an adequate income and have a good standard of living. It reduces the gap between the high and low income earners in the country. It is likely that a high wage country will have lower prices for their properties, relative to the income level - so the consumer prices may not increase as much as the wages.
I find that Australian system, with a high minimum wage and control over the number of hours that can be worked (e.g. by students) to be better in distributing the work opportunities to those who are willing to work. I believe that a minimum wage helps to make a better society - which is why many countries decide to have a minimum wage.
Singapore is one of the few advanced countries that does not have a minimum wage. Although we have the workfare income supplement, I think that the minimum wage system works better.
Tan Kin Lian
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