Teens hit back over proposed youth wage
Teens hit back over proposed youth wageKATE CHAPMAN AND ELLE HUNT
For Fina Weight, 16, the "starting-out" wage of $10.80 an hour before tax makes dog-walking look good.
The Government yesterday announced it will re-introduce a a youth pay rate which will see 16-to-19-year-olds making a minimum $10.80 per hour.
Fina, a Wellington High student, is unemployed, aside from odd baby-sitting jobs and walking a relative's collie - "And I get $20 for that".
She expects casual arrangements such as these to become more sought after after April 1, 2013, when the starting-out wage takes effect.
Fina will be looking for a job next year to save for a school trip to Nepal, which would be more difficult if her new employer decided to pay her the starting-out wage.
"I won't get paid as much, so I'll have to work more, and then I'll have less time for school and things like that."
The wage "doesn't really seem worth working if that's all you're going to get paid . . . If you're doing the same thing as an older person, it seems unfair that you get paid a lot less."
Sacred Heart College student Harriet Willis, who turns 17 this weekend, has a part-time job at Commonsense Organics in Lower Hutt.
She works up to 10 hours a week at $14 an hour - 50 cents more than the current minimum wage.
The possibility she would get the new starting-out wage would discourage her from changing jobs after April 1.
"Even if I was slightly unhappy in my job, or I wanted a change of scene, I definitely wouldn't change jobs now - though I guess that's not a very good argument because lots of people don't have jobs at all."
The starting-out wage could encourage employers to take on young people, "but maybe not for the best reasons", she said.
"They might be hiring them just because they're cheap, and I don't think that's a good thing for youth."
Companies used to a high turnover of staff would be tempted to hire employees they could pay less.
"There's always going to be a big supply of 16 and 17-year-olds that want part-time work."
She would be disappointed to be paid less for the same work as an older, more experienced person.
"I feel like I'm doing just as good a job as other people, so I wouldn't be happy about being paid less."
BOSSES BACKING STARTER WAGES
Employers have cautiously welcomed yesterday's announcement of a new "starting-out" wage, particularly industries with many youth workers.
This is despite a Labour Department survey this year finding that 63 per cent of employers did not support paying youth workers less.
Foodstuffs spokeswoman Antoinette Shallue said the new scheme seemed easier to manage than the existing programme.
"We would welcome any new initiative which removes the barriers to employing young and inexperienced people."
Retailers Association spokeswoman Louise Evans McDonald said employers might be tempted to hire more staff at the lower rate.
"It's a starting-out wage, it's nothing to do with 15-17-year-olds being considered anything of lesser value."
It was recognition that first-time workers required more training and upskilling, she said.
Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson said the new wage was expected to create about 2000 jobs within two years and would give employers incentives to take on young staff.
The wage was part of National Party election policy.
The previous Labour government abolished the youth minimum wage in 2008.
Labour leader David Shearer said more than 65,158 New Zealanders aged 18 to 30 had already left for Australia under National.
"We need an economy that provides decent, secure jobs and good incomes and where young people have hope and opportunity, not the low-wage vision promoted by National."
Unions representing young workers hammered the new wage and Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said it would undercut all workers and rip off the young.
"[It] is simply another mechanism to deliver cheaper labour to employers and is discriminatory," she said.
But Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said the new wage would give young people an extra foot in the door.
"They're just saying ‘give us a shot', employers are saying ‘you don't have experience, you don't have the qualifications, you're a bit too risky'. By giving them a starting-out wage they're saying we will give you a chance'."
Yesterday, the Government also announced a new Canterbury Skills Employment Hub to open next month, and an annual Occupational Outlook report on future demand for workers.
The skills hub, aimed at boosting recruitment for the Christchurch rebuild, will allow employers to list vacancies, recruit from Work and Income and get visas for foreign workers.
New 'starting-out' wage ($10.80 an hour):
Three groups will be eligible unless they are training or supervising others:
- 16 and 17-year-olds in first six months of work with a new employer
- 18 and 19-year-olds entering the workforce after more than six months on benefit
- 16 to 19-year-old workers in a recognised industry training course involving at least 40 credits a year.
Current new entrants' minimum wage ($10.80 an hour): Applies to employees aged 16 and 17, except for those who have completed 200 hours or three months of employment in the workforce, whichever is shorter, or who are supervising or training other workers.
Current training minimum wage ($10.80 an hour):Applies to employees aged 16 and over who are doing recognised industry training involving at least 60 credits a year.
Adult minimum wage ($13.50 an hour): Applies to all employees aged 16 and over who are not new entrants or trainees.
Those aged 15 and under (no minimum): There is no statutory minimum wage for employees who are under 16 years old.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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