Who Can Survive On The Minimum Wage?

Chad Blair/Civil Beat

Beginning this week, Hawaii lawmakers will decide whether the lowest-paid workers in the most expensive state in the nation should be paid more for their labor.

Supporters — including the Abercrombie administration, unions and social justice groups — argue that an increase in Hawaii's minimum wage is long overdue. The last increase, from $6.75 to $7.25, was more than six years ago.

Opponents — including retailers, restaurants and advocates for business — say a wage increase will be harmful to employers already burdened by high operating expenses in an economy that is still largely in recovery mode.

Both sides agree that a minimum wage of $9 an hour by 2017, as is currently proposed, will have consequences for Hawaii's economy and its people.

Even if the minimum wage is hiked, though, a fundamental question will linger: Who can possibly get by on $18,720 a year in Hawaii?

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