Labour has announced today that it would extend the real living wage of £10 an hour to all workers – including those under 18.
The party has promised to scrap the minimum wage ‘youth rate’ – currently set at £4.35 an hour, just over half the adult rate for over-25s of £8.21 – in a move that would make the average young worker better off by £2,519 a year.
Corbyn has suggested in the past, at Unison conference in 2017, that teenagers should not be excluded from the minimum wage hike – but it has not been Labour policy until now.
The pledge is the latest in a series of recent offers Labour has made to young people, including free bus travel for under-25s, adding to 2017 manifesto promises such as tuition fee abolition, EMA restoration and free school meals.
Jeremy Corbyn will reveal the new policy at Young Labour’s political school event being held in Birmingham today, where he is expected to tell young activists: “Equal pay for equal work is hardly a controversial idea, so why are we discriminating against young people?
“You don’t get a discount at the shops for being under 18. But if the person serving you on the other side of the counter is young, they could be on half the wage of their colleagues.
“It’s time to end this discrimination. Young people’s work should be properly valued, not exploited by employers to cut their wage bill. If they’re doing the job, pay them the wage – the real living wage.
“So when Labour gets into power, we’ll abolish the youth rate of the minimum wage. Workers should be rewarded for their work, not their age. Equal rights for workers means just that – irrespective of age, gender, nationality or race.
“For a 16-year-old currently on the minimum wage, what I’m announcing today will mean a pay rise from £4.35 an hour this year under a Tory government, to £10 an hour next year under Labour – more than double. For the average 16-17-year-old in employment, that will make them more than £2,500 a year better off.
“Imagine what that will do for the lives of young people, especially those from poorer backgrounds. It will be nothing less than life-changing.”
The Labour leader will also challenge the Tory record on providing for young people in the UK, saying: “On issue after issue this Conservative government has failed young people.
“They’ve trebled your tuition fees. They’ve scrapped your Education Maintenance Allowance. They’ve made it nearly impossible to move out of your parents’ home because rents are sky high.
“And as for buying a house, that’s an idea from another generation because they haven’t built any. They’ve closed youth centres, cut arts funding, and are risking your entire future by failing to tackle the climate emergency.
“Labour will give young people hope: a real living wage at work, and education as a right, not a privilege. Because we want everybody, regardless of their background, to be able to reach their full potential. That’s what socialism is really about.”