Why use the proof that we're right to suggest we're wrong?

Owen Jones is again making an economic mistake. But then, you know, Owen Jones. He’s telling us that wages just haven’t been rising - we know - and that young people have it worst. Yes, we know.

The thing is, the particular statistic brandished at us tells us why young people have it worst - because government has forced everyone to pay them more. This is actually in the source report that Owen uses.

As he says:

The lack of any organised counterweight to the power of bosses has left many employees lacking security, ill treated at work, and paid derisory wages. Indeed, while Britain’s workers suffered the worst squeeze in wages of any industrialised nation other than Greece, the fall has been felt sharpest by the youngest: for workers aged 18 to 21, real weekly wages collapsed by 16% in the years after the crash.

Therefore Yah! Boo! Sucks!, the burger flippers are on strike and we’ll fundamentally reorganise capitalism. His source is:

The CEP report also emphasises that it is the wages of young workers aged 18-21 who have suffered the most since the financial crisis, with their real weekly wages down 16 per cent between 2008 and 2016.

And that report in detail says:

There are big differences by age. Young workers (those aged 18-21) have suffered a considerable loss in their wages – of the order of a huge 16% fall in real weekly earnings.

OK, why?

Low-wage workers have benefited from minimum wage increases, especially the 2016 introduction of the National Living Wage. They have done better than workers higher up the wage distribution, thus leading to a modest decrease in wage inequality.  Young workers have been the ones most affected since the crisis, experiencing a sharp fall in real weekly wages (of the order of 16% for workers aged 18-21), linked to lower hours, part-time work and self-employment arrangements

It’s that “lower hours” in there. Those young workers are paid more per hour of work, they gain fewer hours of work and their weekly income falls by that 16%.

So, what is it that Owen Jones and others tell us about the minimum wage? That it ought to be raised so as to increase low end wages. What is it that we’ve been saying about raising the minimum wage? That it will likely backfire as people do tend to buy less of something that is now more expensive.

And who is right? Well - but the real point here is don’t these people ever actually read the research they use to support their assertions?

No, not really, they don’t, for Owen Jones will still be calling for a higher minimum wage to increase the incomes of the low paid and young, won’t he? What truly worries is that he still would be even if he could comprehend what his own source report is trying to tell him.