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By Denying Them The Living Wage, We Are Selling Young People Short

19/07/2017 13:25 | Updated 19 July 2017
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By denying the Living Wage to under 25s, this Conservative Government has been selling young workers short. I hope that my Private Member's Bill - which will have its first reading today, could finally put a stop to this injustice at work.

Analysis by the House of Commons Library shows that someone working 26 hours a week who is paid at the rate for 21-24 year olds (£7.05) would earn £610 less per year than someone paid the National Living Wage (£7.50 per hour).

As one of Parliament's younger MPs, I have been campaigning against the decision to exclude under 25s from the National Living Wage over the past 18 months, securing a debate on the issue in Parliament last year.

I was incensed that when the Conservative Government was asked why they had taken this decision, the Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General at the time, Matthew Hancock rubbed salt in the wounds of young workers when he said: "It was an active choice not to cover the under 25s."

"Anybody who has employed people knows that younger people, especially in their first jobs, are not as productive, on average."

Having done three jobs whilst I was studying for my A-levels, I know that age is not a measure of productivity, nor is it necessarily a measure of experience.

A young person who takes their A-levels at 18 and goes either into training in the workplace or directly into employment, could potentially be in a job for six years before being entitled to the living wage. However a new employee could start in the same role, sit at the next desk and be paid the living wage, with six years' less experience, simply because they are over 25.

Alternatively, a young person might decide to pursue an academic route and go to university. Research undertaken by Which? indicates that a typical student on a three-year course outside London might expect to graduate with about £35,000 to £40,000 of student loan debt. So a young graduate, who has done all the right things by working hard and getting a degree, is saddled with up to £40,000 of debt as a result, has only a 53% chance of securing a graduate job - and is not even entitled to the new living wage!

Under-25s do not pay less for gas and electric. They do not pay less for food or rent, so how can we justify paying them less for work?

Up and down the country there are countless examples of young people who give it their all, are a huge asset to their employers, yet face the demoralising prospect of unequal pay.

This bill will call out this injustice and seek to commit the Government to simply rewarding young people with fair pay in exchange for their hard work. I don't think that is too much to ask.

Holly Lynch is the Labour MP for Halifax

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