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The effects of minimum wages on jobs: Lessons from Seattle

Hernan Winkler's picture
Minimum wages around the world are most frequently set at around 40 percent of mean salaries. (Photo: Simone D. McCourtie / World Bank)

What can labor ministers in the developing world learn from the heated debate on minimum wages that Seattle’s dramatic reforms reignited? The answer may be confusion. After more than 6,000 scientific articles, the discussion on the costs and benefits of raising minimum wages is still one of those unresolved million-dollar questions: Many economists claim that it is a very effective way to guarantee decent jobs for workers and to reduce inequality, but other economists and policymakers seem convinced that it would do just the opposite. The recent experiment in Seattle, unfortunately, adds little clarity.