Young workers – undermined

20th March, 2012 11:23 am

I am not aware of petrol stations offering a discount on a tank of fuel to the under-21s. Have I missed that housing costs are less for people under-21, and that supermarket shopping is discounted for young workers? Young people are not immune from the impact of rising costs of living and that’s just one reason why the decision not to increase the minimum wage youth rates is wrong.

The minimum wage rates for young workers were introduced to stop exploitation and to give young people dignity and protection in the workplace. This decision, signed off by ministers, undermines that aim.

These youth rates were hard fought for. I was part of the trade union movement in the early 2000s which debated this issue, campaigned and lobbied the Labour government. We made submissions and presented evidence to the Low Pay Commission. The commission and Labour ministers listened with a minimum wage introduced for 16 and 17 year olds in 2004. Since then young workers have had real protection in the workplace, and could enter the labour market free from the fear of low pay exploitation.

Tackling the youth unemployment crisis requires a real plan for jobs and growth. Confidence in the economy will get employers creating jobs for young people, not cutting wages. We need a government who will invest in the aspirations of Britain’s young people. Axing the Future Jobs Fund, getting rid of the EMA and allowing universities to increase tuition fees to £9000 are all a kick in the teeth for young people. Freezing the youth rates of the minimum wage when living costs are going up can be added to this list. The deficit will not be reduced by a race to the bottom in employment rights and workplace dignity.

Young people are paying a high cost for the failure of the coalition’s economic plan.  Remember this: there is no serious evidence to show that the minimum wage or its increases have had a negative impact on jobs. This coalition decision is one of political choice and not economic necessity.

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  • Redshift

    Well said. I think it needs to be made party policy to close this gap and then equalise it. 

    Same pay for the same work. 

    • treborc

       We should never have had a second wage rate for the young, if you did it should be sixteen to eighteen, after eighteen you can fight wars, be a police office on patrol  you can be doing what every other working person does.

      The young person wage rate was labours way of trying to keep employers  on side and it failed.

      Now the young are helping to repay the deficit again, and where the hell are the Unions, except for a few miserable words they are digging in for a long period doing little.

  • AnotherOldBoy

    “The commission and Labour ministers listened with a minimum wage introduced for 16 and 17 year olds in 2004. Since then young workers have had real protection in the workplace, and could enter the labour market free from the fear of low pay exploitation.”
    It is, of course, no coincidence that the youth unemployment has risen since 2004.  In partiular unemployment among 16 and 17 year olds has risen steadily from about 20% in 2004 to over 35% now.  Those extra 15% must take what comfort they can from the knowledge that the minimum wage is saving them from the fear of low pay exploitation.

    • Jeff_Harvey

      The trouble with this comment is that increasing youth unemployment is a phenomenon that is taking place world-wide, even in countries that have no minimum wage or workers rights to speak of.

      In graphics: Youth unemployment worldwide

  • In my short 50+ years on this puny Planet of yours I’ve NEVER understood why so many people deliberately harm and restrict  children and young adults by deliberately failing them to participate in society as valued and respected people.

    I suspect such sadism is rooted in a personal yet communal understanding that political and economic power OVER people is better ‘fun’ than empowering as many people to live their life free from such restrictions imposed upon those born powerless (other than granting them a vote after being brainwashed with faulty education and brutality).

    I not only despair for the future of further generations of powerless youth, but for the future of your Planet as a whole.  You have so many different weapons of mass & more personal destruction that you will remain alone and denied access to other (real & proper) civilisations in your local galactic area as well as the rest of the Universe.

    You have created your own self-destructive fate, and we want nothing whatsoever to do with you.

  • GuyM

    I have a general rule never to employ anyone under 25, largely given the fact they are a lot more work (plus attitude problems with their generation) and there are better options with mature workers more often than not.

    The fact so many are unemployed shows I’m not alone in this view.

    Redusing the wage cost or even giving a NI cut to the age group might be something htat helps, if not the figures will show soon enough I’d imagine.

    • treborc

      What can you say.

    • Dave Postles

       Those under 20 on the minimum wage have effectively had a wage cut.  They have received no increment this time, but inflation is still 3.4%.  Only those over 21 have received the 11p increase and apprentices have received 5p increase.  Do you really mean to suggest that not allowing an increase on minimum wage for those under 21 will result in more employment for them?  Are employers so mean that they will not afford that small extra element on annual minimum wage?

      • GuyM

        I’m saying that at this time there is no real incentive to employ them.

        As madasafish says above, why employ an untried and inexperienced youth at the same cost as a experienced older worker with a verifiable history.

        I simply don’t hire under 25s as a matter of course.

        Now if you are happy with equality meaning possibly fewer jobs then it doesn’t really bother me either.

        • Dave Postles

           This answer is twaddle.  Their wages have been effectively reduced by having no increase this year to the minimum wage for workers under the age of 21.

        • Dave Postles

          Private sector regional salaries?

          Another of your extrapolations from your own experience to the general situation?

        • Guestl

           Both Madasacunt and you are tory toffs.

          Better off dead, really.

      • Some employers will employ them,  others, mainly large corporations, will be happy to drive down wages every chance they get. This is the Tories trying to help out their chums who run corporations.

        When I left school (aged 16), in my first job the employer said I’ll pay you a man’s wage (ie adult) and expect you to work like a man. We were both very happy with the result.I’ve since used the same approach myself. If you pay top dollar you get top workers (unless they’re b(w)ankers).

        • GuyM

          You don’t pay “top dollar” to take a 16 year old for any sort of intellectual job.

          But you believe as you will, the under 25s are unemployed in large numbers because people like myself do not see the benefit in recruiting them over more mature staff.

          • You’re attempting to address concerns beyond your pay-scale.

            When a vacancy arises, for any position, an employer has to choose from those who apply. Top dollar wages always net a wide range of motivated applicants, of whatever age. Just compare the staff attitude at, say, John Lewis with those at Tesco.

            You’d know all this if you actually were an employer.

          • Dave Postles

             I see these young people working all the time in service and retail industries.  They are the predominant staff there.  Customer service (face-to-face) is exacting.  I rarely encounter less than enthusiasm from these young people.  Equally, I respect the life experience of more mature (in years) people, but age does not guarantee enthusiasm and commitment or unjaundiced customer service at the sharp end. 

          • Check-out staff are the sleeping tiger within the workplace. They perform the most vital task and often find themselves in very demanding and sometimes dangerous situations.

            If they were organised there’s no reason at all why they wouldn’t be able to command the top dollar wages their essential role deserves.

  • madasafish

    Lets see:
    I can employ a mature 40 something year old male or female with some work experience, a stable home background and an employment pattern of stability and not frequent job changes.
    I can employ a 22 year old with no track record at all.

    And pay each the same.

    What a difficult choice to make.


    Judging by many of the comments, many have never had to make that choice..

    (Oh and if I keep making the wrong choices, it’s my job on the line…)

    • GuyM

      Perfectly summed up.

      • AlanGiles

        Guy, I wish I could have asked you this question just a few years ago, when I was employing people – often younger workers.

        You have told us often how you wouldn’t employ anyone under 25 because of their (in your opinion) ignorance, lack of work ethic etc.

        Here is my question: You have 2 daughters, yes?. Presumably under 25. Are you and Mrs M going to keep them at home till they are 25 before suggesting they find jobs?

        If I adopted your attitude, why should I be the mug who gives them a job at 16 or 18, after all, all youngsters are the same are they not in your mind?

        Or are the Guy girls a special case?

        • Jeff_Harvey

          People like GuyM are paradoxical. 

          People with his mindset tend to purse their lips and moan (out of one side of their mouths) about the “welfare bill” and the evil of “benefit dependency” and about young people making “lifestyle choices not to work and to be unemployed”, often advocating that boys and girls in this invidious position should be “made to work for their benefits” or “forced into jobs” or whatever, while, at the same time (out of the other side of their mouth) stating that employers wouldn’t offer any unemployed young people jobs or training themselves because these youngsters, as a group, tend to exhibit hosts of undesirable characteristics which exclude them from being first choice as far as filling vacancies goes.

          Which beggars the question: If GuyM’s eccentricity really represents the attitude of the majority of employers as far as the young and unskilled goes, how can we as a nation ever turn the tide as far as youth unemployment is concerned? If somebody, somewhere, sometime doesn’t give these boys and girls a chance whatever will become of them and society when they themselves eventually reach adulthood?

          • AlanGiles

            Absolutely. When I was in the position to employ youngsters, I always pictured myself at 15 – I was a skinny kid, slightly below average height, and yet some kind employer (his name was Mr Keska) looked at this ragbag in front of him and decided to have faith in me. Unlike most of those who had interviewed me, he didn’t ask me the standard question of those days “What does your father do?” which always put me at a disadvantage, and made me flustered before I started.  Perhaps for that reason, if I had two evenly matched candidates, if I knew one came from a broken home, I would give him the job, figuring he probably needed it more.

            I think Guy’s problem is that he talks ABOUT “social groups” but not TO them. He doesn’t realise that a lad born perhaps to a chip-eating, Hello reading single mum in a tower block has feelings and aspirations and hopes just like his pampered daughters, and they no more chose their circumstances than Guy’s daughters did.

            There is a bus stop opposite my home, and every morning at 7 you see the same people standing there going to work – all ages, including one lad in working clothes, about 17 – he is there every morning rain or shine without fail. Most youngsters given the opportunity are just as reliable and industrious as their older counterparts, and I think we have a duty of honour to give them a chance.

            If Guy climbed down from his high horse, I am sure he started work before the age of 25 – and somebody gave him his first opportunity – obviously somebody who didn’t “think” like Guy!

    • Dave Postles

       Let’s see.  Here we have a young person in a job since the age of 16, working for a few years.  The government increases the minimum wage for over-21s by 11p, but allows no increase for those under 21.  It is, Cable states, so as not to impede young people’s entry into the workforce.  Now that is totally disingenuous.  He not only vacillates, he is culpable of dissembling.

      • GuyM

        A rare occurence and soon to be impossible with education to 18.

        • Dave Postles

          You mean that there are no people working of age 20 or below on the minimum wage?  Please show us some proof. 

        • Jeff_Harvey

          The reason schools in this country have long holidays during the summer is because, years ago, children were sent out to the fields in order to help adult workers bring in crops and similar. Many young people still take holiday jobs and work part-time in their spare time and, presumably, WILL be affected by this freeze in the minimum wage.

          I have to say I am disappointed in Dr. Cable.

          If I were in his shoes I’d hate to be remembered for this particular folly.

          • AlanGiles

            If the under 21s are to be discriminated against in wages, I think we ought to take the £200 food allowance for MPs away from them, and give it to the under 21s. There are far too many obese MPs and we would actually be doing them a favour

        • treborc

           Not yet it’s people are still leaving at sixteen at the moment.

        • Dave Postles

           Let’s see: someone gets a job on the minimum wage at age 18.  To what age do they have to work on the lower level of the minimum wage?  Oh, 21. 

    • Jeff_Harvey

      You’ve inadvertently and comprehensively discredited the Conservative’s Work Programme, which supposedly is designed to get as many of the unemployed into paid work as possible regardless of their age, qualifications, experience, or background. 

      I always thought the programme was hogwash.

      Thank you for the confirmation.

    • Guestl

       Hope you get fired from your job

      Tory bastard.

      • madasafish

        Nice to see a nice logical well thought out reply .

        Personal abuse is free and loses the argument.

    • treborc

      Of course in the building trade where I worked on Power Stations Oil refineries and hospital building programs, you had little choice about wages because the Government settled for a national wage rate, this was to stop firms  cutting by  lowering wages, so everyone knew the wages and nobody could under cut.

      seems you did not have a directive then on employing people, it makes it difficult then, today not employing people because of sex, age, or your notion of suitability could see you in the same trouble.

  • Mcmathewson

    Tackling unemployment might require accurate figures.
    In the budget today, George Osborne referred to “20 million tax payers” which  leaves 7 billion unemployed or extremely ill indeed!Unless my figures (below) are grossly inaccurate  there are approximately 7 million British residents not accounted for by statistics.  UK population   = 62 million    less  students (3million) = 59million less  under 16years (12 million) =47 million less  men women over 65 ( 11million) = 36 million less 5.8 million (say  6 million)  working age benefit claimants at August 2011.  = 30 million                                   less “20 million tax payers”  (George Osborne 21 March 2012)   = 10 million less  2.68m unemployed (Guardian 18th January 2012) = 7 millionWhere or who are the 7 million – can anyone clarify?


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