At the moment the minimum wage for workers aged 16 and 17 is just $8.20. This is only 80% of the minimum wage for those 18 and over, which is $10.25. Employers expect exactly the same level of work from 17 year olds as 18 year olds. 17 year olds don’t get to scan the shopping 20% slower, or make burgers 20% slower. But employers can pay them less.
For those under 16 there is no minimum wage protection at all, employers can pay whatever they want. This means that 15 year olds can legally get paid $5 or less for stacking supermarket shelves or making pizza.
Youth rates hurt all workers, because employers use the lower amount they can pay young workers to drive down everyone else’s wages. Employers pay youth rates because they can, because the government lets them. Sue Bradford currently has a bill before parliament that would eliminate youth rates for 16 and 17 year olds. We don’t believe this bill goes far enough. The Youth Union Movement believes that there must be one minimum wage for all workers, and no legal discrimination in employment on grounds of age.
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