The Hawaii State Legislature is currently considering raising the minimum wage to $13 by 2024. When we talk about affordability, there are two sides to the equation: how much things cost, and how much people have to spend. Yet we sometimes forget that one of the variables to this equation is time.

As a senior in high school, I am at a crossroads in my life — to stay or to not stay in Hawaii. I have chosen to stay because I love this community that I spent my entire life with, but most of my friends have elected to leave.

They do not believe that there is any opportunity for them here, so they elect to go to mainland colleges and get jobs on the mainland.

The sad thing is that my friends are right — how can there be any opportunity for them in a place where they would probably only get paid $13 in four years?

The data from our state’s very own Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism shows that a single person with no children and who gets health insurance from their employer needs $17.63 an hour to be “self-sufficient” in Hawaii. A wage of $17 would be the bare minimum wage in Hawaii.

Capitol marijuana working group vote.

A legislative hearing room at the Capitol. Lawmakers are considering raising the minimum wage to $13 an hour, but many argue that that is inadequate.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

After adjusting for cost of living, Hawaii’s average wage is the lowest in the nation. How can I blame my friends for leaving as quickly as they are when the legislature is considering only $13 in four years?

While it is too late to change the minds of many young people in Hawaii, by increasing the minimum wage to $17, maybe we can convince the next class of seniors to stay. Because what is the point of encouraging small, local businesses to grow if there is no one new to buy from, operate, or own them?

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in every single county, the population of those 65 years and older in Hawaii is increasing. Young people are leaving, and if we do nothing or not enough, they will continue to leave. It was a sad thing indeed when I realized that my decision to stay made me the minority.

We need to increase the minimum wage to $17, and soon. The next eight most expensive states after Hawaii have all passed laws to raise their minimum wage to at least $15 an hour. Now, it is time for the Hawaii State Legislature to make a move.

Hopefully, that move will yield a true minimum wage of $17. The keiki of Hawaii are counting on it.

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About the Author

  • Dyson Chee
    Dyson Chee is a high school senior who wants to continue to grow up
    in the place he calls home – Honolulu. Just like his friends, he
    considered leaving Hawaii but has decided against it. He hopes to
    attend the University of Hawaii Manoa and live out the rest of his life
    in Hawaii.