A new $10.80 "starting out" wage may encourage Nelson employers to give younger workers a shot, but teenagers say it is unfair and will lead to hardship.
Unions and opposition parties have rubbished the plan for a teenage wage, saying it will undercut all workers and drive young people overseas.
The Government says it will introduce a pay rate for 16 to 19-year-olds - a minimum $10.80 an hour.
The new rate, to be called the "starting out wage", will not be compulsory but could affect 40,000 teens.
It will come into force on April 1, and the Government estimates it will create up to 2000 youth jobs in the first two years.
The starting out wage will be set at 80 per cent of the adult minimum wage, which is currently $13.50 an hour. It will apply for six months after starting with a new employer.
Fresh Choice Nelson manager Mark A'Court said the new wage might encourage the supermarket to employ more younger people.
The supermarket employed fewer than 20 teenagers, but used to employ more before the recession, he said.
"The trend is to employ older people because the price is the same."
Tasman Bay Berry Company grower Glen Holland said the new wage would be a help for his industry. "At the moment, things are pretty tight all around for a lot of horticultural industries. That would certainly help, that's for sure."
Mr Holland said he hired the most teenagers during the two weeks around harvest, but since they were usually hired on a contract basis, the new wage would not affect this directly.
Saving money with a lower hourly wage was not the only consideration, he said.
"At the end of the day, it depends on the experience of the person. If you can get an older person who's got more experience and you don't have to stand there teaching them everything, that might be worth more."
"Pay people what they're worth is my experience," Mr Holland said.
While employers were optimistic about the proposal, teenagers and their representatives were less enthused.
Jordan Simpson, 18, who has just left high school and is looking for work, said hearing about the new wage was a little shocking.
"If I was going to a workplace I wouldn't want to be getting $10.80 an hour, especially if you have got to pay bills or board."
He was unsure whether he would take a job at that rate of pay, but said he would do so as long as it was not a dead-end job and there was a chance to progress over time.
In some cases, such as with using technology, younger people had more skills to offer than adults, he said.
"Someone my age might be a whizz at technology."
Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology student association president Scott Tambisari said the proposed wage was not enough to live on, and would further encourage young people to move to Australia.
In the past year, 891 residents have moved from the Nelson region to Australia - 449 from Tasman district and 442 from Nelson city.
The student association was already flat out dealing with applications for student hardship grants, and the introduction of the lower youth wage would make the situation worse, Mr Tambisari said.
"It's the ones that have finished high school and are out of home that I'm worried about.
"Being a fulltime student is hard enough as it is. It doesn't need to be made harder."
The proposed wage seemed to be based on the assumption that those taking the jobs had family support as well, but this was not always the case, he said.
"There does need to be a way to give young people a foot in the door, but I don't think this is the answer."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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