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Age discrimination is what it is. In the UK, the minimum wage is meant to be a sense of security, a right; a sum which workers are entitled to be paid hourly by their employers, and that is a great thing to have. However, in my country it is also acceptable for me—aged 17 years of age—to be married, have children, leave the family home, drop out of school, join the army, AND get a job… but, of course, not with the entitlement of earning the same as people a year older than me (even for the same work).
So, how can a government in their right mind truly believe that 16-year-olds are mature enough for such things, yet only be guaranteed a measly £4.20 for stacking the same shelves and serving the same tables as those over 25? Again, comical. If the national minimum wage is really "national," shouldn’t it be "common to all?" It should be. In a society trying to cope with issues of inequality and discrimination in different forms, we should be more open about the changing times in which we live—a time where young people can’t afford housing and higher education, or where a 16-year-old is the only source of income in a family.
With nearly 2 million students progressing into higher education each year, consideration should be given to the ever increasing cost of the UK student living, and the whole package of university life being chucked at those young adults all at once—stress, essay deadlines, assignments, and the anxiety roller-coaster that is making new friends and trying to adapt to a life without your mother cooking your dinner!
With all of that in mind, some may argue that the under £7 minimum wages for those under 25 is to encourage young adults into education instead of work. What about those students who are not as fortunate, whose parents do not pay their tuition fees and student loans? Should they live in debt? That is the way things seem to be going. After all, it would take someone more than 20 years to pay off a loan of £40,000; even with a £35,000 salary. This is especially unlikely for those 18-year-olds who will likely graduate by the age of 22, when they will be still three years short of being adult enough to earn the full national minimum wage.
Talking of being adult enough, let me remind you again that those over 16 can start families. Whether planned or unplanned, this can also affect many young people’s life choices. With the rate of teenage pregnancies being nearly 0.7 percent in 2014, there is a real prospect of income insecurity for young parents, or single parents. If people were to be forced to go into low-paid jobs because of childcare, then how will they manage to pay for and take care of that child? Let’s consider an 18-year-old, who earns his/her minimum wage entitlement of £5.90, and works 35 hours per week; he or she will only earn £10,192. That’s three thousand short of the “Basic Standard of Living” cost. How can a young adult provide everything for a young family if they are the only person in the house earning? Yes, they might get help from parents. Yes, both adults in the home work. Yes, they should have maybe thought of the consequences of having a child. However, the government should be considerate of all citizens, regardless of something as simple as age. For the government to believe that only those over 25 are facing responsibilities and issues such as this is naive. If the national minimum wage was the same, these young parents would have a more equal chance to earn what they need—the same chance as people just a few years older than them.
It is clear that only adults over the age of 25 get a real benefit out of the security the "national" minimum wage provides. Isn’t that considered a form of exploitation? Do we consider 16- to 24-year-olds incapable or still children? It is understandable that those under 18 might still be living with their parents, in high school, and with maybe less experience in work, but to deny security for those 18- to 24-year-olds after considering them legally as adults is plain confusing and, in all honesty, absurd. There is no reason for there to be such a differential gap in salary for these ages. The lower pay of those under 25 may be attractive to employers; so, legally, these young adults are being exploited because of the minimum wage. Isn't using "kids" for cheap labour the same as exploiting immigrants for it, too?
As mentioned before, the costs which young people face are on a rise, as with the taxes they have to pay. The overall salaries that young people make if they work 35 hours per week do not really come close to what is needed to survive in the UK. With those in university or college, these presumed hours are reduced. Doesn’t this mean we’re encouraging poverty from a young age and forcing the younger members of this nation to suffer money-wise? Yes. If the wages were equal, there would be no discrimination caused by the problem of who to employ. There would only be the consideration of the person as an individual—not because of how old they are.
The National Minimum Wage is age discrimination. The way the government’s policy is made highlights some of the ludicrous decisions and ideas politicians take and have. Society is not what it was years ago. There are cases which need to be credited and the way the "national" minimum wage is organised into age groups creates a definite show of the naivety people have. To make the National Minimum Wage truly "national," we have to get rid of these age based restrictions. Young people will benefit and have the same chances as those only a few years their seniors, and there will be greater equality overall, especially with the increased costs that are required to reside in the United Kingdom. The stress on these young individuals that are only just making their way into their independent life will decrease and their income security will provide them with equal opportunities. To take in the modern issues of teenage pregnancy and other problems facing those under 25 will be helpful too. So, if the equality gaining process does not happen, the government might have to think of a new name for its not so "national" minimum wage.