From the TUC

Insulted, exploited and insecure: Young people deserve Fair Pay

28 Mar 2014, by Guest in Working Life

A couple of months ago we polled students on what their single biggest concern for their future was, and the top three answers were all about the job market. And this was not by a hair’s breadth either. Employment worries made up more than half of all of the answers, more than all other issues combined.

Our polling showed that students are anxious about whether they’ll get a job at all, whether they’ll get a job they like, but importantly in the context of Fair Pay Fortnight, whether they’ll get a job that will give them a fair wage.

When we asked students and study-leavers what makes a decent job, 97% said fair pay was important. You can’t argue with that.

While the government may be boasting a marginal reduction in unemployment stats at the moment, there’s plenty to keep pushing for. In the same way that trimming a penny off the price of a pint will not tackle the cost of living crisis, several thousand less unemployed young people does not mean the complex raft of problems facing young workers will disappear.

This isn’t being overly negative, it’s being pragmatic. There have been some major changes in the shape of the jobs market for young people in recent years that need some serious attention, particularly around the issue of pay.

For apprentices, trying to learn a trade on poverty pay.

If the Living Wage Foundation calculates that a person needs £7.65 per hour to have a reasonable standard of living, or £8.80 per hour in London, how come apprentices only need £2.68?

The department for Business Innovation and Skills recently announced the apprentice minimum wage would rise by a whopping five pence. Granted, young people don’t enter the job market with years and years of experience, but saying they are worth only a third of everyone else is insulting and shows how little young workers are valued.

For graduates trying to get their foot on the ladder through internships, all too often unpaid.

Internships are increasingly becoming the ‘go to’ way of transitioning between education and employment.  But competition to get a job for many graduates is so high that we are in the perverse situation that many of them are expected to work for free to get experience, so they can get paid work later on. Aren’t we supposed to work to get paid, not pay to work?

Some employers across the UK are evading national minimum wage legislation regarding interns, based on the ‘grey areas’ in employment law. Because there’s not a clear definition of what is volunteering, what is work experience and what is an internship – too many of our young people are being exploited in a labour market that doesn’t work for them.

The easy solution – we endorse the campaign group Intern Aware’s recommendation that all internships over four weeks should be paid at least minimum wage – ideally Living Wage. This rule is clear and easily enforceable and would be a big step in cracking down on pay dodging employers.

For the thousands of students and young people working on the new phenomenon of zero-hour contracts.

According to the Resolution Foundation and the Work Foundation, almost four out of ten people on zero-hour contracts are aged between 16-24. Flexibility of hours is good if you want it. But worrying about how many hours you’re going to get and whether you can pay your rent is not. We need jobs that allow students to balance work-study-life commitments, but don’t leave them hanging on whether they’ve got enough hours next week.

Young people are getting a raw deal on pay in many ways, and closer working between students and trade unions is vital to help address this. Quite simply a fair day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay. I don’t think that’s too much to ask for. Young people deserve better than this.

A banner promoting Fair Pay Fortnight: Two weeks of events highlighting Britain's cost of living crisis, from 24 March to 6 April 2014. Find out more at

One Response to Insulted, exploited and insecure: Young people deserve Fair Pay

  1. Anthony Dawson
    Mar 30th 2014, 5:55 pm

    Fair pay is a concern for everyone, young, old, retired, sick, unemployed.

    What people are expected to live on in is simply not enough!

    And the kids are right to be worried as I remember what I was paid when I started working, and its more than any job is willing to offer now. Not in real terms but actual monetary value.

    Speaking with my retired payments they said: We are getting a pay rise! but because of a cap on what they say we need to live on they take it off us in other ways. So we are worse off than we are now and will continue to get worse these coming years.

    Rather than pumping money into banks, which then gets pocketed! They should be putting it straight into the hands of people rather than expecting them to continually taking on debt to meet basic living standards or visiting food banks.

    Then double the minimum wage.