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Social Policy: Living on a Minimum Wage Essay

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Updated: Jul 31st, 2020

Living on a minimum wage is one of the most challenging experiences because it is always associated with constant needs and disparities. The fact that families cross the poverty threshold does not guarantee that they have enough financial resources and can afford decent living or satisfy all their needs. In this case, people feel no support from the state and legal protection, realizing that their welfare is in their own hands. What I learned from this experience is that living on a minimum wage is synonymous with financial insecurity and instability (Barusch, 2015).

One of the primary findings is that the minimum wage is not a living wage. It is closely related to opportunities to buy the minimum necessary food products and medications as well as affordable housing and schooling services. However, it is synonymous with minimum living because every time an individual wants to purchase additional goods or go out, finding resources for financing this decision is close to impossible due to constantly limited available funds and being forced to think of unplanned expenses. That said, living on minimum wage assaults human dignity and is far from welfare because it does not offer opportunities for securing life, such as renting or buying a house or an apartment with enough space for all family members, affording health insurance, and adequate care for children, especially healthcare and educational services (Kotval, Kotval-K, Machemer, & Mullin, 2012).

Moreover, minimum living has a direct influence on the quality of life and the ability to enhance the personal development of both the parents and children. First of all, those who work are forced to seek additional sources of income to cover the required expenses and make up a contingency budget. That is why they do not have enough time for developing new skills and obtaining new knowledge, thus becoming trapped in an inescapable cycle. Low-skilled workers are forced to remain in this category for the rest of their lives (Nguyen, 2013). Furthermore, it is related to the long-term negative impact on employees’ health because adequate healthcare is unaffordable. Also, low-wage positions are often characterized by dangerous workplaces that ignore minimum health protection requirements (Leicht, 2010). This means that low-wage employees work under constantly increased risks of health concerns.

Another matter of concern is the fact that minimum living affects children and their prospects in life. For example, childcare in Florida costs around $25,000 per year (State child care facts in the state of Florida, 2016). This figure is calculated for three children. If a family earns $30,000 per year, it does not have enough financial resources to provide children with adequate care and schooling. That is why parents are forced to seek help from their relatives and give preference to home care and education, depend upon loans or find additional sources of income, sometimes illegal. In any case, children either feel the lack of communication with parents or do not obtain enough knowledge and skills, thus becoming forced to follow their parents’ life path as low-wage workers.

To sum up, living on minimum wage is associated with inadequate satisfaction of basic human needs such as shelter, health care, nutrition, education, communication, and personal development (McGuire, 2010). The rationale behind this statement is the fact that minimum wage is not realistic and does not incorporate decent living but is instead focused on meeting minimum needs, denying the ability to achieve an adequate work-life balance.


Barusch, A. S. (2015). Foundations of social policy: Social justice in human perspective. Belmont, CA: Cengage.

Kotval, Z., Kotval-K, Z., Machemer, P., & Mullin, J. (2012). A living wage standard: A case study of the US Virgin Islands. Local Economy, 27(5-6), 541-557.

Leicht, K. T. (2010). Nickels and Dimes won’t fix this: The future of work and pay in America. Work and Occupations, 37(2), 225-233.

McGuire, J. M. (2010). Decentralization for satisfying basic needs: An economic guide for policymakers. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

Nguyen, C. V. (2013). The impact of minimum wages on employment of low-wage workers. Economics of Transition, 21(3), 583-613.

(2016). Web.

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