Support young women with higher minimum wage

By Claire Reindorp, Young Women's Trust • 26 August 2022

This week, the TUC launched a new campaign to increase the minimum wage. In this blog, our CEO Claire writes about why it has never been more important to make sure young women are fairly paid.

Young women, many of whom are already teetering on a financial cliff, are bearing the brunt of a cost of living crisis that will force many of them over the edge. With the cost of everyday essentials from feminine hygiene products to energy bills and rents soaring, it has never been more important to put money in young women’s pockets. And it is low-paid young women who are among the most affected, experiencing the worst of the price hikes, already stretched to the limit and forced to cut back on the essentials, which make up a disproportionate amount of their spending, just to get by.

We’re calling to increase the minimum wage

It is why Young Women’s Trust have been raising awareness of how badly young women are affected by the cost of living crisis, and amongst other things, calling for wages to rise at least in-line with inflation, as the TUC are now doing in their campaign for increasing the minimum wage. Young women are currently seeing the fastest rise in costs as a proportion of their income and yet it remains legal to pay younger workers less for their labour. Any rise in the minimum wage must apply to workers of all ages, as the TUC have rightly emphasised.

Our recent survey of young women found more than half are ‘filled with dread’ when thinking about their finances, double the number who said the same 2 years ago.  And whilst things are getting harder for young men too, our research shows that things are getting harder, faster for a greater number of young women.

Why things are getting harder for young women

Why is this the case? The truth is the odds are stacked against these young women. Deeply entrenched structural issues combine with discrimination to limit young women’s potential. This means many young women are struggling to survive at a time in their life when they should be beginning to thrive.

They already earn, on average, a fifth less than young men per year giving them fewer resources to cope with the current crisis. Young women are still over-represented in low paid sectors of the economy including  the ‘5 Cs’ of caring, cashiering, catering, cleaning and clerical work. ONS stats show that women are over represented in two of the 3 lowest-paid occupational groupings.  These sectors are low paid and undervalued, in part because they have been traditionally viewed as women’s work. We need imagination and effort not just to open up more opportunities and different roles to young women but to challenge these expectations and improve pay and conditions for young women in their workplaces right now.

Too often young women are forced to work part time because a lack of flexible jobs.  Affordable, flexible childcare limits their options and keeps many out of work altogether.  Our recent survey found that 2 in 5 young women had experienced discrimination in their job or when looking for work.

If we are to support both young women and the economy at this difficult time, we must start to listen to what young women tell us they need: greater job security; the ability to work more hours as well as to be adequately paid for the work they do; and support to progress in their jobs and out of low pay.

As the Conservative leadership elections draw to a close, it is essential that young women’s experiences are at the heart of the incoming Prime Minister’s thinking.  All of us at Young Women’s Trust and the incredible young women we work with will be on hand to ensure the new government can tackle these challenges head on and give young women the fair pay they deserve.

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