Workers under 20-years-old earning the national minimum wage will see their pay packets frozen under government plans published on Monday.
The adult minimum wage will increase from £6.08 to £6.19 in October 2012. However 18-20 year-olds will see their pay remain at £4.98 and the rate for 16-17 year-olds will be kept at £3.68.
The decision to freeze the minimum wage for young people follows a recommendation from the Low Pay Commission.
Business secretary Vince Cable said the commission had struck "the right balance between pay and jobs" and he was accepting its suggestions.
“In these tough times freezing the youth rates has been a very hard decision - but raising the youth rates would have been of little value to young people if it meant it was harder for them to get a job in the long run," he said.
figures published last week showed youth unemployment had reached a record high, with 22%, or 1.042 million of 16-24-year olds, out of work.
The TUC union criticised the decision to freeze the minimum wage for young workers. Brendan Barber, the TUC general secretary, said there was "no evidence" the minimum wage has had an adverse impact on jobs.
"The reason why firms have not been hiring enough new workers is because they lack confidence in this government's ability to set the UK on course for a sound economic recovery. There is now a real danger that young people will view minimum wage work as exploitative," he said.
Ian Murray MP, Labour's shadow business minister, said the decision showed that ministers were "out of touch" with the job crisis facing young people.
“This is the first time that the development rate for young people will not rise. The Low Pay Commission's recommendation represents a vote of no-confidence in the government’s handling of the economy and the prospects for recovery," he said.
“If the Tory-led Government was serious about tackling youth unemployment they would back Labour’s Real Jobs Guarantee by repeating the bank bonus tax and using the money raised to help create 100,000 jobs for young people, which they would be required to take up.
"We have also called on the government to use public procurement to boost apprenticeship opportunities, but they have failed to do so.”
Alison Garnham, the chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group, said it was "another turn of the screw on families working hard in the lowest paid jobs.
"When 58% of children who live in poverty have at least one working parent, low pay is clearly at the heart of the UK's child poverty problem. But from April, there will also be a further series of cuts to tax credits, which will hit many of the same families," she said.
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