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UK Economy - Policy Focus - Minimum Wages and Unemployment

Level:
AS, A Level, IB
Board:
AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB, Eduqas, WJEC

Last updated 24 Jun 2021

Here is a short revision video looking at whether a rise in the minimum wage will inevitably lead to an increase in the unemployment rate.

UK Economy - Policy Focus - Minimum Wages and Unemployment

Chain of reasoning: minimum wages & unemployment

  • A higher minimum wage will, other factors remaining constant, lead to an increase in labour costs for many businesses. Examples might be labour-intensive firms operating in tourism & hospitality or in the health & social care sector.
  • If a firm is unable to raise their prices, higher costs will then cause a fall in their operating profits. This might lead some firms to reduce employment levels perhaps by replacing some labour with new technology.
  • In this way, a higher minimum wage could lead to falling demand for labour and hence a rising unemployment rate.
  • If employers cut hours instead of jobs, this can cause a rise in underemployment.

Evaluation: Will a higher minimum wage cost jobs?

  1. Other costs might have fallen – for example a reduction in rents and business rates in the retail sector, or lower national insurance can help to offset a minimum wage rise.
  2. A higher minimum wage increases the disposable incomes of those affected – they will spend more, adding to aggregate demand thus generating increased employment.
  3. Higher minimum wages might stimulate labour productivity which can then help to control unit labour costs for a business. Employers may improve their training schemes.
  4. Much depends on the scale of a minimum wage rise (contrast a 2% increase in the pay floor with a 10% jump) and also depends on the wage elasticity of demand for labour.

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