Recently the minimum wage in New Zealand increased from $13.50 to $13.75 per hour. What are the arguments for an increase in this and what affect does it have?
An argument for the minimum wage is the fact that sometimes in labour markets there isn’t enough competition between employers and a monopsony situation occurs – see graph below. Here the minimum wage would protect the employee. However, is raising the minimum wage based more on reducing inequality as people are still struggling with the purchasing power of their incomes. In the US President Obama spoke in his State of the Union address about increasing the minimum wage from US$7.25 to US$9 – seems to be well targeted with regard to its impact. But ultimately how many people are affected by the increase in the minimum wage?
With the increase in minimum wage there is the belief that employers will lay-off workers. Evidence suggests the following:
1. Employment doesn’t fall much as the increase in wages lowers labour turnover, which raises productivity and the demand for labour.
2. The increase in costs for the employer will be passed onto the consumer in higher prices for goods and services
There is also the argument that wage increases will boost aggregate demand and therefore growth and employment. But in the USA this is estimated to increase consumer purchases by approximately US$15bn and when you think that the US economy is worth US$15 trillion is quite small in the scheme of things.
Economist Christina Romer stated in The New York Times that a more generous earned-income tax credit would provide more support for the working poor and would be more pro business at the same time.
Monopsony Labour Market
A monopsony occurs in the labour market when there is a single or dominant buyer of labour. The buyer therefore is able to determine the price at which is paid for services. Unlike other examples we have looked at, in this situation we are now dealing with an imperfect rather than a perfectly competitive market. The monopsonist will hire workers where:
Marginal Cost of labour (MCL) = Marginal Revenue product of labour (MRPL)
In order to entice workers to supply this amount of labour, the firm need pay only the wage Wq. (Remember that ACL is the supply of labour). You can see, therefore, that a profit-maximising monopsonist will use less labour, and pay a lower wage, than a firm operating under perfect competition.
In this situation the power of the employer in the labour market is of overriding importance and the employer can set a low wage because of this buying power.