“But they’re too young to be treated fairly”

March 10, 2006

Even though my youth seems to have happened a long time ago in a galaxy far far away, I still remember what it was like to be on youth rates.

It was frustrating, unfair, unjust, and never ceased to stick right in my craw. 

No matter that I often worked harder than those around me, who were, after all, only a year or two older than me, I got paid less, just because I was born after NZ had pulled out of the Vietnam War.  That was how arbitrary it seemed to me at the time, and it still does.

I have no problem with pay systems that are based on experience and skill-base, but I do have a major dispute with paying people differently on the basis of age.  I have friends who never had a paid job until they left tertiary education, in their mid-twenties, while others started part-time work at 13 while they were still at school, and as soon as they were legally able were off, out, in the full-time workforce.  But on the youth rates system the experience of the latter means nothing, while the age of the former counts for extra money in the pocket.  It’s bizarre and unfair.

It makes me angry when I see youth rates adding to the poverty of some of my students.  Although at my school most of those who work part-time do so to pay their cellphone bills or buy a bit of fake bling for themselves or their girlfriend(s), I still find it unfair.  I see them sometimes, working in a shop I’m browsing through, and they really don’t seem to be any more lazy, any less capable, that the university student at the next counter, or the older woman tidying the merchandise.  Imagine how much worse that is for a student, and a family, who actually rely on that meagre income to make ends meet.

For a good rant on the subject, by an actual young person (I think), see Youth Rates SUCK! (it’s amazing what you can find on Google). The comments expose some of the frankly ridiculous arguments that supporters of age-based discrimination frequently trot out to market, as if they were sleek young mares when in fact they are skinny old geldings with ricketty legs.

The Supersize My Pay campaign is also focusing on an end to youth rates, as well as a substantial lift to the minimum wage (to $12 an hour).  They seem to be organising strikes in support of these claims in a number of key youth employers (mainly fast food outlets).  I’ve lifted the picture with this post from their gallery.

The Green Party have put up a Private Member’s Bill to remove youth rates, and Labour have graciously deigned to allow it to go to through the Select Committee process, meaning the public can make submissions on the Bill in the near future.  Keep an eye out, and have your say.



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