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Rally against Youth Rates!!!

18 August 2005

Rally against Youth Rates!!!

Youth rates suck for young people and all low income New Zealanders.
1pm Aotea Square
Saturday August 20 1pm

Whats wrong with youth rates?

Youth rates suck for young people.

In New Zealand, 16-17 year olds can be legally paid $7.60 an hour ($304 for a working week, 80% of adult minimum wage) for the same work as an 18-year- old. Under-16-year-olds can be paid whatever the employer decides.

Paying young people a lower wage for equal work is discrimination pure and simple. The issue of youth rates is similar to that of pay equality for women with men. In both cases, a member of a social grouping is discriminated against in the workplace because they are a member of that social grouping. Young people are paid less simply because they are not deemed ‘adults’ by the government and employers.

A 2004 income survey put the average wage for full-time 15-19 year olds at $9.50 with 20-24 year olds expected to earn $12.70. This indicates a massive pay inequality based on age, largely a result of youth rates. We do the same work in the same shitty jobs as everyone else, yet are paid even shittier wages.

Youth rates contribute to New Zealand’s growing poverty.

Youth rates worsen youth poverty and the poverty of all workers in New Zealand. A recent University of Otago study that interviewed young people revealed many youth wanted more money for their families to meet basic house expenses like rent and food bills. This is no surprise with 3 out of 10 New Zealand youth living in poverty (at a conservative estimate).

The young people said youth wages were too low, especially for those who needed to earn to supplement the family income or pay for their own clothes and education. A decent wage for youth would help raise families out of poverty and the need to borrow for necessities such as food and water.

The wave of economic reform begun in the 80s has only exaggerated problems in the New Zealand economy, increasing the exploitation of low wage workers, of which youth form a significant component. The median annual income of young people (15-24 years) plummeted from $14,700 to $8,100 over the ten-year period between 1986 and 1996.

The result of ‘Rogernomics’ (Privatisation, union-busting, attack on wages and benefits) has been that the rich have got richer and the poor poorer. 45% of families, many with 2 adults and young people working, now rely on some kind of government assistance to reinforce low incomes. This indicates that wage levels across the board for New Zealand workers are set far too low, with yearly wage increases not even keeping pace with inflation. We are getting poorer and life is harder because they are paying us less.

Youth rates suck for all workers.

The discrimination faced by youth in the workplace is a deliberate strategy of business to divide employees and drive down wages across the board.
Youth rates encourage a low wage climate by setting wage standards lower than is deemed socially acceptable for adults.

Employers often employ youth instead of adult workers as they are easier to boss around, have little knowledge of their rights, are usually not unionised and can be paid youth rates. Youth actually lose out in this situation as well, as the children of the adult worker will be worse off due to the loss of potential income. These children will then be forced to look for work themselves to support the family. Thus patterns of exploitative youth employment and a low wage environment develop into a cycle of poverty.

The youth economy is a fundamental battleground for all workers, as the shit they pull on the young today is the shit they pull on adults in the future. At the 2001 Census 37% of 15 to 19 year-olds were employed as service and sales workers, a sector notorious for experimenting with new forms of low-wage and casualised 10 hour work week for shit pay labour. These firms often present their jobs as ‘youth holiday jobs’ to conceal the fact they are ripping off whole families of workers by paying shit wages.

What is the alternative?

The only response to a low-wage, exploitative work environment is struggle. We must demand living wages for all workers, regardless of age. Youth rates must be abolished immediately, with minimum wage and benefits raised considerably for all New Zealanders. Let the rich foot the bill.

5% wage increases are not enough to reverse the poverty created by 15 years of the Rogernomic’s offensive. Workers are already demanding more, now we need action to translate demands into success.

The fight has two faces – against the employers and the government that protects them. Neither National nor Labour have any love for the youth and workers of this country. Young people and adults can not allow themselves to be turned against each-other, but must see each-other as important allies in a fight to guarantee an end to poverty and exploitation in New Zealand.


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