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We Need Fair Wages for Under 25s - Young People Are Being Told They Aren't Worth £7.20 an Hour

07/06/2016 16:41 | Updated 07 June 2016
© Milo Robinson / Alamy

From last month many workers under the age of 25 will have discovered that their pay package is substantially less than their older colleagues. People who are doing the same job and have the same level of experience are finding that they are being treated differently by their employer.

This situation hasn't emerged by accident; it is a deliberate move by the government to keep wages low for under 25s. Their new, heavily publicised, National 'Living Wage' will not apply to under 25s meaning that young people could find themselves treated as second class employees.

Since April there has been a 50p per hour difference in the minimum rate for those over 25 years of age and those younger than 25. This is predicted to rise to a difference of £1.21 per hour by October 2020 . It has been estimated that under 25s on the minimum wage will have earned £11,047.89 less than an older colleague over the next five years .

I've started a campaign to highlight the injustice of this for workers of my generation and have arranged the first debate on this issue in Parliament for this Wednesday.

Those leaving university will find the situation particularly insulting. Research by Which? indicates that a typical student on a three-year course outside London can expect to graduate with around £35,000 to £40,000 of student loan debt.

Most students on a three-year course graduate at the age of 21 and around half of graduates go on to employment in non-graduate roles, a trend that has steadily increased since the 2009 recession. A young graduate who has done all the right things--worked hard and got a degree--and who is saddled with up to £40,000 of debt as a result, is not even entitled to a full 'Living Wage'.

For too long the Government have offered weak and frankly outrageous justifications for this approach. Cabinet Minister Matthew Hancock told his party conference that young people were too unproductive and the Tory Minister Chris Grayling told me that firms needed to be 'incentivised' to hire young workers . This is why I have called a debate on this issue where the Government can be held to account.

On productivity, we know that young people are often the ones asked to work the longer shifts, lift the heavier packages and work the antisocial hours. I know this from personal experience. When I graduated from university I started working for a business in my hometown dealing with sales both overseas and across the UK.

As one of the few employees who at the time was young, unmarried and without children, I was regularly asked to travel at short notice and work out-of-hours at evenings and weekends.
Young people are often asked to work harder and longer hours because of their youth and often oblige, through a desire to prove themselves and to move up the ladder. Sometimes their circumstances mean that it is easier for their employers to ask them to work the more unpopular shifts rather than older members of staff who might have more commitments at home.

Unsurprisingly when I asked the Government to show me some figures to back up their claims that the young are unproductive I was told they have absolutely no evidence to prove this. In an answer to a written question Minister Nick Boles told me that "there are no official statistics estimating the productivity of workers by their age."

3.44m young people could be affected by these lower wage rates and it is an absolute outrage that they have been told they are not worth £7.20 an hour. Youth unemployment is a huge problem but debt and low wages are not the solution.

A poll by Survation suggested that 66% of voters were in favour of extending the National 'Living Wage' to under 25s but once again the government are on the wrong side of the equal pay for equal work debate. I'll be working with young people and MPs in Westminster to build pressure on the Government to rethink this unjust decision.

Holly Lynch is the Labour MP for Halifax

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