It would be fair to say that many people do not like to work on a weekend but have to due to necessity rather than by choice. Foregoing a day or two of rest can have signficant costs physically, socially and on a community level. It is argued therefore that those after-hour workers should be fairly compensated for that cost.
Plans to lower the minimum wage and remove penalty rates in Australia would no doubt hit hardest the most vulnerable of workers including the poor and students. We must remember though that there are those people who already work irregular hours - think of the likes of nurses, hospitality workers, bus drivers the list goes on.
Those that make the policies need to consider also the cultural value of the weekend before they tweak penalty rates too much.
Research conducted by the Educational Policy Institute in 2005 found that living costs for Australian university students were third highest in the world with a staggering 60% living below the poverty line. The proposed changes would no doubt exacerbate this.
For those Aussies who "choose" to work weekends the penalty rate provides the incentive in many cases for them to give up valuable family and social time. The reality is that many need this simply to survive. It is also worth noting that if penalty rates were to be removed employers may have difficulty filling those weekend or after-hours shifts due to the fact that they would now be receiving the same rate as their peers who work more sane hours.
An estimated 10% of adult employees are on a minimum wage in Australia which makes them particularly vulnerable to this kind of change. What will be interesting to see is whether the current government will respond to pressure from employers in the absence of any hard evidence to the benefits of lowering the minimum wage and abolishing penalty rates.