Restaurant workers have been protesting low wages across the country, but restaurant industry backers are saying be careful what you wish for. What happens when workers demand higher wages companies cannot afford? Companies will begin to try to find ways to offset the costs of higher wages. In fact, some companies have already begun researching new technologies to eliminate restaurant workers altogether.
Automated workers and fewer entry level jobs
Everyone would love to get higher wages. Ask anyone how much money is enough and they will say, “Just a little bit more.” But according to CNN Money, “At some point a sharp rise in wages would be counterproductive, increasing the appeal of automation and putting more workers at risk of job loss.”
It’s time for workers to move beyond what Thomas Sowell describes as Stage One thinking, and get a broader and more thorough understanding of the negative effects of certain policies such as minimum wage, insurance, government-run health care, and anti-discrimination laws.
When the discussion shifts to higher wages all of us can agree it’s a noble goal to make sure everyone has a wage which is sufficient to support themselves and their families, but few move past Stage One thinking to discuss the broader implications to businesses and the economy when wages are increased too much.
For instance, who pays for the higher wages? Generally the costs are simply passed on to the consumers through higher prices, negating much of the increase for the worker who was supposed to have been helped. Now the burger simply costs $5.00 instead of $4.00 and that raise you received simply paid for a more expensive burger. But it’s not just the increased costs for higher wages which workers should think about; it’s also increased automation.
Automation seen in many stores with higher wages push
Just in the last several months there has been an increase in automated services which should be concerning to all minimum wage workers. For instance, grocery stores have significantly increased the number of self-serve check outs, Chili’s and Applebee’s have been using checkout kiosks at the table. Panera Bread also introduced automated services. It’s not hard to see where this is going.
When was the last time you had someone pump your gas or carry your groceries out to your car? According to a paper released last year by University of Oxford researchers, there is a 92% chance that fast-food preparation and serving will be automated in the coming decades.
Rather than demanding higher wages for certain jobs, it might be time to get the skills necessary to move into higher paying jobs which already exist. It’s clear that if restaurants are forced to pay more than the market will support for their workers, you can expect them to find new ways to improve their costs. And when this happens you won’t have to worry about your $8 or $9 an hour food service job. A robot will have your job, and he’s not nearly as difficult to please.
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