The hospital has a work-training program for patients. Some jobs are vaguely comparable to competitive employment - washing dishes, operating a cash register - but most are much simpler and require few skills. Our rehab department is teaching generic job skills, such as showing up on time, taking breaks when scheduled, not losing your temper when things go wrong.
As currently constituted, none of the jobs are worth minimum wage, if we define worth as something an actual employer would pay you to do. They weren't worth the old minimum wage, either. But if patients do paid work, they must be paid the minimum wage, to prevent exploitation.
When the minimum wage went up, the program had to cut back hours across the board. It still ran out of money, however, and for the months of May and June, no one will get paid to work anywhere. This is in miniature what opponents of the minimum wage have always foretold would happen on the larger economic scale.
Minimum wage laws were originally an attempt to solve a problem. Some employers took advantage of workers, sometimes in small ways, sometimes across entire industries. It would be too difficult for the government to evaluate every position and employee to determine if he was being paid market value for his labor. It is much simpler to decree that everyone who works must be paid x. This solution is only partially related to the original problem, however. Requiring a minimum wage does solve a number of abuses without having to resort to lengthy studies and calculations. But it does not directly address the problem of abuses. How could it? It sets a bottom to the level of abuse an employer can inflict.
In setting that lower limit other ideas crept in. How much is enough to live on? This is a fine and noble question, but it completely sidesteps the question of what a particular type of labor is worth.
Just because a job exists doesn't mean it is worth $7/hour. Just because a car exists doesn't mean it is worth $1000, even though that is what it likely needs to be worth to sell it and buy another car. It might take a great deal of skill and labor to grow cold-weather yams on an Aleutian island and ship them to market in Juneau. That effort may be "worth" a great deal in some cosmic sense. But if no one buys the yams, the effort isn't worth it. So if you are a yam farmer and aren't making any money, but you hire your brother-in-law because he needs a job, how does that job suddenly become worth $7/hour just because someone is doing it?
The idea of a living wage is an extension of this minimum wage reasoning. Everyone agrees that people should be able to obtain food and shelter. But to get there by decreeing that any job they might happen to pick up is automatically worth that amount of money doesn't follow.