Minimum Wages Now and Then

I was talking with mom a few days ago when the conversation turned to the minimum wage.  Soon enough, the two of us were trying to figure out how today’s minimum wage compared with the compensation people earned back when she was a child. 

Mom was born in 1918.  Her father employed men to work his farm. 

According to mom, my grandfather compensated his farmhands at the rate of one dollar a day, plus benefits.   The benefits comprised the use of a riding horse, the use of a milk cow, the use of a house, the use of a garden plot, and a hog each year for slaughter.

The government did not mandate that compensation.   My grandfather paid the going rate for farmhands in his day.

Mom says some of her father’s farmhands were able to save up enough money to purchase their own farm while working for him at a dollar a day.

The two of us concluded that the “minimum wage” for a farmhand 90 years ago was rather good when compared to the minimum wage of today, which is around seven dollars an hour now.

6 thoughts on “Minimum Wages Now and Then

  1. If someone was to work for a minimum wage today, say, on a farm, I would doubt if they would be able to save enough to buy a small farm for themselves unless they were debt-free. Then, on top of being debt-free, if they were allowed to use a truck when they needed it, allowed the use of a house instead of paying rent like most do today, and was given a garden plot to use and a hog or cow a year, I know some people that would take it right now. Even if they had to pay for their utilities they would actually come out better than many who are making $15-20/hour today and who are paying high credit card rates, utilities, car payments, on top of a mortgage/rent. I had a guy in his mid thirties tell me last year that he wouldn’t mind living a life where he was told what to do in exchange for his daily welfare. I told him to hang on because that was exactly the direction we are heading now.

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  2. In constant dollars that one dollar of 1918 would probably be worth aroud 90$ of today. In Québec, since January 1st the minimum wage has been pegged at $9.59/hr, $8.25/hr for tip earners. Still it is barely a living wage.

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  3. It is a relative value. Consider this: when I was 12, 66 years ago, in Montreal 6 streetcar tickets for school age kids were 0.25 cents, a double icecream cone was ,0.03 cents and a 6 ounces pop bottle was 0.02 cents. My 2 younger brothers and I could take a tram go have a picknick at the outskirts of the city, come back with one ticket left for next time and all that for 0.40 cents…but you had to have them and that was not often.
    Today, the same trip would be $8.75 for the same 6 tickets, $3.50 for the cone and $1.75 for the pop all told, $24.50, almost 60 times the cost for the same thing.

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  4. Smaller salaries would require more and more people to sacrifice… there are a lot of those who earn to much but are unable to manage their finances properly and in the end they lose all their money through careless spending.

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