Ok working for free may not be an option for someone with financial obligations like mortgage payments, but perhaps you can get rid of your debts and join the growing number of people that are desperate enough to start working for free.
If you have financial obligations, either get another job to pay for them or get rid of them which can be done by selling your assets or downsizing or moving in with your parents or whatever you need to do.
Forget Minimum Wage
Forget minimum wage. Wages cannot truly be set by anyone, regardless of the games the politicians like to play. Wages are always based on productivity and the supply of labor.
Many companies cannot afford to pay minimum wage to hire new employees simply because they cannot produce a profit as that wage.
If you are truly desperate for a job than find a way around the minimum wage. For example, consider working as a free internship or as a stipend paid intern for a period of work that usually works out to less than minimum wage. Another example is to work as a free lance contractor or as a volunteer.
As you work, you will be constantly evaluated by the market and will eventually get paid for the value you are contributing. But if you hold out for x wages with people that don't know you, they are going to hire someone else.
So get over your previous wages and concentrate on getting back to work first. Then try to improve your productivity and your wages will increase respectively.
Stick Your Foot In The Door
If you have been trying to get a job and are discouraged or depressed about it, don’t just give up and decide NOT to work because you will probably just get more discouraged.
This is great time to do something that you have always wanted to do. Why not, you can’t get a job anyway? The beauty of doing something that you love while you wait for a job is that you will be in the perfect position relationally to get the next job that opens.
For example, if you work an internship and the company has an opening you will be one of the first to hear about it and you already have the trust and respect of the company because you are working for them.
Most jobs come by way of relationship. You need to be in relation with the managers of a company to get a job. Relationships are key to job placement, especially in a recession.
Stop looking for a job and start looking for a way that you can build relationships with people that are working in an industry that you are interested in.