Low-wage earners left out of economic growth

It’s the old story of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. Except this time, it appears to be played out right here in Florida, with a massive wage gap taking root during the past three decades. Experts estimate that the incomes of the best-paid workers have continually risen, while the lower-wage earners are still scraping the bottom of the proverbial barrel. Not only are some of the successful people violating wage and labor laws, but the situation simply shows the need for continued legislation to protect people who are the most vulnerable.

The numbers do not lie in this, according to financial experts. The top 10 percent of earners have seen their wages increase by a whopping 34 percent since the late 1970s, while those in the lower tiers have only seen an 11 percent gain. Lowest paid workers have not seen any wage change at all, demonstrating just how dire the situation can be for these employees.

Lower-paid workers should theoretically be able to reach bigger percentage gains faster, largely because even a small increase can make up a big chunk of their income. That is, a $2-per-hour gain for a person who earns $8 per hour is far more significant than it would be for someone who earns $20 per hour.

This situation illustrates the significance of wage and labor laws in our modern economy. We need to improve the protections afforded to the lowest-earning workers because those people cannot make ends meet using the current system. Experts say the only workers in Florida that have seen significant gains since 2000 were those holding MBAs, PhDs, law licenses or medical practices. Everyone else, even those with master’s degrees, lost out on their piece of the financial pie.

If you think your employer is treating you unfairly by violating wage and labor laws, you should pursue legal action. Considering the state of the down economy, it is increasingly critical to keep every dollar you earn – and get every dollar you deserve.

Source: Orlando Sentinel, “With wages, only a handful getting richer,” Jim Stratton, Jan. 27, 2013.