Nationwide, the question of what constitutes a living wage is one with which many lawmakers and labor experts have struggled. The fact of the matter is that many states pay workers well below what they need to survive on a single full-time job and even efforts to bridge that gap are often inadequate. This seems to be the case in Ohio, where the minimum wage is nearly 18% above the federal level but still doesn't come close to addressing residents' needs.
Six of the 10 most common jobs in the Buckeye State pay about $25,000 per year or less, not enough to make ends meet for a family of three without receiving some kind of assistance from the government, according to Policy Matters Ohio. While the state has a low unemployment rate, about 185,000 people within its borders have simply dropped out of the job market altogether because of how difficult it can be to find work in some metro areas.
For instance, while Columbus has gained nearly 139,000 jobs above pre-recession levels in 2007, and Cincinnati is close to adding 65,000 positions, Youngstown actually shed 19,000 jobs, and Akron is still 600 short from where they were, the report said. Adjusting for inflation, many of the most common jobs in the state now pay less than they did at the turn of the century.
What it means
With job opportunities in some parts of the Buckeye State still lacking and those that do exist often not meeting standards set years ago, even the higher-paying common jobs in the state aren't pushing Ohioans forward, according to the editorial board of the Akron Beacon Journal. For instance, of the 10 most prevalent positions, only registered nurses earn more than 200% of the federal poverty level, making upward mobility difficult or impossible for many.
In addition, while Ohio has added jobs since the start of the recession, that growth doesn't match what's been seen in the population over the last 12 years either, the editorial board said. In 1974, the share of income distributed to workers stood at nearly two-thirds of every dollar. As of 2017, that number had slipped to 57%, and likely continues to fall.
What's being done?
State lawmakers, seeing the issue at hand, have tried to raise the state's minimum wage even further, according to the Ohio News Service. In February, the state's House of Representatives saw a bill that would have raised the minimum to $12 an hour starting in 2020, and hit $15 by 2023. About 1.5 million people statewide would see some kind of pay raise as a direct result, many of them substantial. However, there was not enough support for the bill to push it to the state Senate.
With these issues in mind, companies must do more to help workers make ends meet. This means providing higher wages, better benefits and other perks that give them greater financial flexibility. As an added bonus, such efforts will help companies both attract and retain talent on an ongoing basis.
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