There’s been outrage (and rightly so) today at the TV3 piece last night saying that National was planning a youth rate for 15 – 24 year olds.
In just hours, a Facebook page dedicated to fighting the move has gained more than 1,000 supporters.
It’s not that we haven’t had youth rates before. National had youth rates for all workers under 20 at 60% of the adult minimum wage until Labour became government in 1999. Did they create jobs? No.
When Labour became Government in 1999, one of their first moves was to abolish youth rates for 18 and 19 year olds and increase the 16 and 17 year old rate to 80% of the adult minimum wage.
Later on, Sue Bradford’s youth minimum wage bill, which effectively abolished the youth minimum wage for 16 and 17 year olds was passed into law with Labour’s voting power behind it.
But we’ve never had “youth” rates (that I am aware of) for workers over 20. I suspect that the Minister made a blunder in the TV3 piece last night by saying that youth were “15 – 24 year olds”
15 – 24 is a measure used by the UN, the World Bank and several countries to describe “Youth” as a group eligible for special treatment under the law and in society. In New Zealand, the 15 – 24 year old age group is used to measure “youth” unemployment. It is also used in things like road accident statistics and a range of other measures. But this doesn’t mean this age group are eligible for discrimination in the way that youth rates discriminate.
Paying someone less because of their age, gender, race or sexuality is discrimination under NZ law. We wouldn’t tolerate older workers being paid less, so why is it different for younger workers?
I suspect that the government is really looking at the 16 – 19 year old group for a return to minimum youth wages. It’s a way to exploit the competitive advantage of a 30% wage differential with Australia that Bill English says is a good thing.
But this would not only be one step backwards to 16 and 17 year old youth rates, but a giant step backwards to last Century when the National Government had 18 and 19 year olds on 60% of the adult minimum wage.
Cutting wages never creates jobs. We’ve gone there before and now look what a mess we are in with low wages, an increasing skills gap and some of the longest working hours in the OECD.