The Catholic Church in Australia is calling for an increase to the minimum wage in the country, saying that it will help lift families out of poverty.
Megan Kavanagh, a member of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Employment Relations Reference Group, said in a March 17 statement that Australian tradition going back to what is known as the Harvester Case of 1907 dictates that full-time employees with dependents should be able to support themselves without falling into poverty.
“The current level of the minimum wage falls far short of the objective identified and set by Harvester in a much less prosperous Australia 112 years ago,” Kavanagh said.
The Church is calling on the Fair Work Commission to step up, arguing that it has not done enough to support hundreds of thousands of families who are suffering from low wages, as well as children who are living in poverty.
Current minimum wage in Australia is $18.93 per hour. The Austrlaian Catholic Bishops Conference is calling in its submission to the Fair Work Commission for the wage to be raised to $20 per hour.
Kavanagh said this would be an important first step in resolving economic problems facing working families.
She noted that the value of the minimum wage in Australia has declined relative to national wages in the last 20 years.
“The Fair Work Commission last year found that the minimum wage provided a reasonable income for a single adult without family responsibilities,” she said. “In other words, what was an inadequate wage for a family two decades ago has become a reasonable wage for a single adult without family responsibilities. That is simply unacceptable.”
The government should address the poor living standards of people in low-wage jobs, either by increasing minimum wage or offering more government assistance, stressed Joe Zabar, director of economic policy at Catholic Social Services Australia.
He warned that policy moves such as freezing or reducing Family Tax Benefits in recent years have only served to prevent families from achieving living wages.