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Democratic Leader: Indiana Needs More High-Paying Jobs

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Photo: Light Brigading (Flickr)

A McDonald's worker takes part in a rally aimed at raising the minimum wage.

House Minority Leader Scott Pelath says Indiana isn’t doing enough to ensure that jobs being created in the state are high-paying ones.

A recent study from the Indiana Institute for Working Families says Indiana has the highest percent growth of what it calls “low-wage” jobs of any of its neighboring states.

Low wage jobs are those whose median annual salary is below the federal poverty level, about $23,000 a year for a family of four.  The number of low-wage jobs increased by about 12 percent in 2012, the most recent year examined by the study.

About 27 percent of all jobs in the state can be considered low-wage.

House Minority Leader Scott Pelath says that’s because Republican leaders in the legislature and the governor’s office have focused too much on helping big business, rather than the middle-class.

“We have added jobs here in recent months but they are jobs that are worse than the jobs that that people used to have,” Pelath says. “What matters is not numbers, it’s whether people perceive if they’re prospering or not; whether they think their lives are getting better.”

But Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee Chair Brandt Hershman says the state can’t dismiss jobs that don’t necessarily pay higher wages, either.

Still, he says Indiana is focused on key areas for high wage job growth.

“You try and increase the skill set so your existing workforce can compete for higher wage jobs, help your student population get the skill set necessary for the more advanced jobs of today, and you try and get more people employed because it helps push wage rates up,” Hershman says.

Pelath says reducing Indiana’s income gap won’t happen overnight but, like Hershman, noted that improving the readiness of the state’s workforce is a critical task.

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

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