Magazine of Socialist Action in Australia

End the youth wages rip off!

Reading Time: 2 minutes

About 75% of high school students over the age of 15 work in part time and casual jobs. But while we are busy enjoying our new found cash, we don’t always realise the extent to which we are being ripped off at work.
By Kirk Leonard, Socialist Party Melbourne

Most young workers are employed in the retail, fast food and hospitality industries. Companies like McDonalds, Subway, KFC and Hungry Jacks are built around young, low paid workers, and they rely on young people, to be the ones cooking the burgers, dishing out the soft serve and operating the cash registers.

In super markets as well often 15, 16 and 17 year olds operate the checkouts at 10 o’clock on a Saturday night, or spend their Sundays putting the Coke and the chips on the shelves. These businesses also rely on 18, 19 or 20 year old workers to be duty managers and supervisors. This means that the majority of the most essential and basic work is done by young workers.

The biggest problem facing young workers today is low pay. Most young people aged under 21 only get paid a percentage of the adult rate. Sometimes this is as low as 45 or 50%. The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission have stated that “Employers may lawfully pay a youth wage” or that it is well within the rights of bosses to exploit young workers by paying them less than their older colleagues, based on age.

Bosses argue that young people don’t have the same skills or don’t work as hard or as fast as older workers, or even that they don’t need as much money as older workers because they don’t need to support families. But all of those arguments are completely wrong and the truth is that bosses are just looking for any excuse to make bigger profits. To say that young people can’t stack shelves, operate cash registers or serve food as fast or as well as older workers just because of their age is total lies.

Young people still have to pay the same amount of money as older workers on full wages, for clothes, food and shelter, and due to this, many young people live in poverty even though they have jobs. It is also important to note that the arguments used by bosses in favour of giving young people less than a full wage, are the same as the arguments used by bosses in the past in favour of paying women less than men.

The concept of youth wages is total discrimination on the basis of age. The Socialist Party calls for youth wages to be abolished and supports the campaigning work of the UNITE union in Victoria who are fighting hard to make this happen.


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