Posted by alangdundee on 31st March 2009
Despite marking its tenth anniversary tomorrow, the National Minimum Wage Act continues to discriminate against young workers.
While workers aged 22 or over can expect to receive a minimum of £5.73, those aged 18-21 are guaranteed just £4.77. Workers over compulsory school age but younger than 18 are entitled to a mere £3.53. Those under this age, such as school pupils who deliver papers, are not covered by the legislation at all. In reality this often encourages the practice of employers hiring younger staff at lower wage levels, then finding ways to dismiss them as they age and their wage increases.
Britain is not the only country to have different rates for different people however, of around fifty nations who currently enforce minimum wage levels, only four (Israel, Chile, Belgium and Luxembourg) explicitly discriminate due to age. Other nations categorise based on skill level (Pakistan); industry (Cuba); whether or not the position is in the public or private sector (Bahamas); geographical considerations (Mexico); or how long an employee has been in their role (Canada).
Regardless of whether or not you believe that the minimum wage should exist, the inbuilt age inequality is surely indefensible. Can anyone give a valid explanation as to why the government feel I’ll automatically be worth an extra 97p per hour by the middle of next month, after my 22nd birthday?
Many make the argument that a 22 year old will have more experience, and is less likely to live at home with their parents, so does not require as much money. This opinion is based purely on often wrong assumptions and would have little credibility in a pub debate, let alone as a central part of a so called ‘progressive’ policy.
While the wage paid varies depending on age, the cost of living does not. I’ve yet to walk into a shop and see products priced on a sliding scale according to the customer’s age! Similarly, the income tax levels paid by those either side of the divide are identical.
Although some unions have continued to call for improvements to the minimum wage, such as paying the adult rate at 18, it is clear that these demands are not enough. The Scottish Socialist Party continues to call for a single, £8 per hour guarantee, regardless of the workers age.