Wednesday, 7 October 2009

We need an Equal National Minimum Wage

Last week the National Minimum Wage rose again while Gordon Brown pledged to increase it every year for the next five years, much to the consternation of business.

However, the disparity between the adult and youth rates still exists. Despite the (slight) increases a 22 year old will now earn £5.80 per hour compared to £4.83 for 18 to 21 year olds, and just £3.57 for 16 and 17 year olds.

Undoubtedly the minimum wage is one of Labour's successes but this difference in pay for the young is downright shameful. Why should young people be paid any less for the same work than somebody a few years older when everybody has to pay the same rates for rent, bills, food, transport etc?

This is a rule I've never understood. I've been told the different tiers are to encourage young people to stay in education but this I find particularly galling with the introduction of top-up fees for university students.

As just one example of a section of youth society, many students work to pay their way through university and without part-time jobs, even some full-time jobs, many simply wouldn't be able to afford the living costs. For many students this entails working in bars, restaurants and in retail, the kind of work which pays no more than the minimum wage.

I was one of these working students (and still am). I worked in a bar, yet I was paid less per hour than some of my older colleagues who did exactly the same work as myself. Today that difference stands at 97 pence and much more for 16 and 17 year olds. For many students working a twenty-odd hour week that ~£1 difference could pay most of a shopping bill.

The nature of work is usually no different for younger people, nor is the cost of living. Everybody should be paid the same minimum wage, regardless of age. The British Youth Council has been running a campaign for an equal national minimum wage but their lobbying of the Low Pay Commission has been paid barely any attention.

With the recession ongoing, an equal minimum wage is unlikely to go down well with business leaders who will bleat about the usual rising costs and likely point out young people are lucky enough to have a job at all these days. But if the CBI will demand that young people are to pay more for an education the least they could do is lend us some support as we try to meet these extortionate demands. It's not just businesses that are suffering in the recession, it's the workers too and particularly the young. Time to stop shitting on us and throw us a bone for once.

1 comment:

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