Wednesday 25 February 2015

For young people a rise in the National Minimum Wage is to be welcomed, but I still wonder how many young people can get by on such low pay. As Catherine said in her blog last weekCarole2, the assumption seems to be that they will have parental support but that’s definitely not always the case.

The level of the minimum wage varies according to age and, as Catherine also highlighted, so too does the rate of increase.  Yesterday the Low Pay Commission, which recently heard evidence from Catherine and other members of our advisory panel of young women, recommended a 3.3% increase in the minimum wage for 18-20 year-olds, meaning they get £5.30 an hour. The fact that this is slightly higher than the increase for those aged 21 and over (3%) seemed to acknowledge that older teenagers face a particular challenge, perhaps because many do need to support themselves.

The new minimum wage of £5.30 an hour for 18-20s remains insufficient for many young people. We have heard from young women who have been told by Jobcentre Plus advisers that they are better off on benefits than working at these low rates. And if they do take a job young people may find themselves alongside someone just a year older who is being paid £6.70 an hour to do the same job.  

The recommended 2.6% increase resulting in a rate of £2.80 paid to all apprentices in their first year (and 16-18 year-olds throughout their apprenticeships) means that we will continue to hear from young women who have had to turn down apprenticeships that could have offered them valuable training and experience, and perhaps lead to higher-paid jobs in the future.

The Low Pay Commission argues that the apprentice and youth rates must be kept low to prevent youth unemployment rising but if we are serious as a country about encouraging and supporting young people to work, we must ensure that the rewards for work make it a viable option for them.

Next month, Young Women’s Trust will publish the findings of its year-long Inquiry into young women not in education, employment or training (NEET) so watch this space for more on what we recommend should happen to ensure that young women don’t become trapped in low-paid jobs.