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Can we justify age-based differentials in Minimum Wage? And the danger of age stereotypes

by on April 30, 2015

We’ve blogged before about the age-based differential in the UK’s Minimum Wage. For the record, the current rates are set out here on the NIDirect website. Those aged 21 and over qualify for the highest rate whilst  those between 16 and 20 are banded based on chronological age and / or whether they are apprentices or not.

There has been opposition to the continuation of this system, for example, from the NUS and the British Youth Council who call for an equal national Minimum Wage for all workers regardless of age. Other countries maintain an age-based differentials in minimum wages, for example, the Netherlands as set out here on their Government website. In fact, if anything, their system looks even more complicated than the UK with rates varying up to the age of 23.

So we were interested to see this item on the NL Times website (English language news website in the Netherlands) reporting that a cleaning agency there has decided to scrap the youth minimum wage, saying that from this summer onwards, their employees under 21 will receive a full salary. The company is apparently the first in its industry to do so, and gives the reason that it is ‘morally irresponsible’ for a younger worker to receive less than an older one for doing the same job.  In countering the stereotype of young people needing more training than their older counterparts, the company spokesperson offers some alternative views about them (‘breath of fresh air’, ‘very flexible’ and ‘seldom sick’) which are of course stereotypes too. Which, as we have said before, just goes to show the dangerous game of engaging with stereotypes.

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