Today sees the introduction of the National Living Wage, a flagship policy of the Chancellor, George Osborne, who boldly announced last year that "Britain deserves a pay rise". However there's one gaping hole in this policy, under 25s, those who keep our service sector running and often fill the most underpaid jobs, will be excluded.
The National Living Wage has been for the most part a unifying policy across the political spectrum, with most parties agreeing that Labour's rather meager minimum wage, introduced in 1999, was long due for a replacement. A pay increase of 50p per hour is likely to be good news for the one in twenty workers who are currently on the lowest pay rate. Though this pay is in stark contrast to the £8.25 per hour rate of pay that is advocated by the Living Wage Foundation, who also advocate for a higher rate for those working in London.
However it's not just the rate of pay that the UK Government and the Living Wage Foundation differ on, it also concerns who should be entitled to a decent rate of pay. The current discrimination received by young workers meaning they have to wait until the age of 21 until they receive the standard minimum wage has now been eclipsed by the arbitrary age of 25. For those leaving school at 16, they will have to work nearly a decade to be deemed worthy recipients of the National Living Wage. Were the UK Government to introduce a scheme that discriminated against any other section of the workforce, it is likely they it be chastised by the media and commentators, and rightly so, however there has been little outcry at this further disadvantage young people will be put at.
Last year Cabinet Minister, Matthew Hancock, shone some light on the rationale behind excluding people under the age of 25, by stating younger workers did not deserve the pay rise because they "were not as productive". It was also claimed that by setting the pay scale at a lower level for young people they would be offered more opportunities to gain experience by companies using their cheaper labour. This claim was swiftly dispelled when a report by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, which found that higher pay could "reduce the likelihood of employees leaving their jobs" and thus reducing opportunities for younger workers.
Despite the UK Government recently announcing that the rate of pay for those aged 21-24 would increase in October to £6.95 per hour, this will still leave a gap of around £450 per year for young full-time workers.
Young people are already facing a heavy brunt of the continued cuts to public spending, with reforms to university education support, local youth services reduced and the withdrawal of some benefits. The Albert Kennedy Trust recently produced evidence showing LGBT young people account for 24% of the young homeless population and that the removal of housing benefit for under 21s is set to cause even greater turmoil for this vulnerable section of society.
As countless of studies highlight, low pay continues to be interlinked with poverty and yet the opportunity to help young workers has been missed by the Chancellor. Today the young man making coffee for the commuters filing into Whitehall, or the young woman serving lunch in an airport, won't receive a pay increase, they will instead be told to wait.
Everyone in Britain deserves a pay rise on today, the 1st April; discriminating against a section of the workforce based on age is no more than a joke.