Youth Rates

Audrey Young in the NZ Herald wrote:

The temperature in Parliament is sure to rocket when the law “reinstating” youth rates is debated this week.

It happens every time the emotive issue is debated, as it did last week when the bill to bring them back passed its second reading. …

The new youth rates will be called the Starting Out Wage.

Labour says youth rates will be reinstated, suggesting that they were previously abolished.

But Labour did not support the bill of former Green MP Sue Bradford to abolish youth rates. It opted instead for a dilution of her bill but which limited the amount of time that a new young worker could remain on youth rates to 200 hours or three months.

National went to the last election campaigning for a change to that regime, saying the move had contributed to a significant rise in youth unemployment.

The change is in fact quite modest. It is not full youth rates. The starting out rate will only apply:

  • To a 16 or 17 year old with a new employer, for the first six months
  • To an 18 or 19 year old who has been on a benefit for more than six months

The $13.50 minimum wage will be raised to $13.75 on April 1. From May 1 the Starting Out Wage would be 80 per cent of that, or $11.

Act leader John Banks said his party believed 80 per cent was too high as a minimum. In Britain the rate was 60 per cent for 16-year-olds and in Australia it was 48 per cent for 16-year-olds.

He compared the Starting Out Wage to the dole, paid to 40,000 young people every fortnight between 15 and 19 – equivalent to $4.50 an hour. He said they desperately needed the “dignity of work and a job opportunity”.

I believe getting a young person their first job is incredibly important and making it illegal for a 16 year old to work for less than $13.75 an hour is incredibly stupid.

We see the impact of this stupidity by the fact that the unemployment rate is currently 30.9% for under 20s.

Labour MP Darien Fenton compared the move to discrimination against women and Maori who at one time were paid less because some people said they were worth less. No one would tolerate that type of discrimination today.

You are remain female or Maori for ever. You do not remain 16 for ever. Also minimum wages are not maximum wages.

It would then also be acceptable, she said, to discriminate against older workers.

We don’t allow a 16 year old to vote, yet allow 70 year olds to vote so the comparison is invalid.

“It perpetuates its stereotype of young workers being unreliable and incapable, and it ignores the fact that many young workers have already had considerable work experience at the age of 16.”

if they have had work experience at 16, it can only be because they were employed under the age of 16 – when there is no minimum wage.

One of the strongest submissions against the bill came from the Human Rights Commission. It said unequivocally that the discrimination could not be justified.

“In New Zealand, the age at which children and young people are deemed to be adult is considerably younger than 20 in many critical areas of life.

“The minimum age of criminal prosecution is 14 for most offences, 12 for serious offences and 10 for murder and manslaughter.

“Children in New Zealand are legally able to marry at 16 (with parental consent if either party is 16 or 17) and drive at 16.

“Children can enlist in the military at 17 and be deployed at 18.

“Yet they are not considered to be sufficiently adult enough to be protected by the minimum wage.”

I agree you gain you rights of adulthood at before 20. I actually support 18 and 19 year olds getting the adult minimum wage.

But I think there is no justification for having the minimum wage start at 16 instead of 15 or 17 or 14. 16 is arbitrary and capacious.

18 is when you are generally deemed an adult who can vote, marry without permission etc. It is also when most people finish school and leave home.

So what I would do is simple.

  • No minimum wage at all for 16 and 17 year olds (like it is for 14 and 15 year olds). Getting a job is far more important than what it pays, especially when almost everyone at that age is still living at home. 
  • Full minimum wage at age 18

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