Bring on youth rates, employers say

Paying young people less would not be the panacea to youth unemployment but it would be a big step in the right direction, the Employers and Manufacturers Association has said.

"It's not going to be the magic bullet but it would be a huge help," EMA employment services manager David Lowe told NBR.

"Teenagers present their own issues."

Mr Lowe said he was not trying to have a go at young people.

"As part of growing into adulthood, you go through that phase.

"But just because a teenager walks through a workplace door does not mean they are immediately transformed into maturity."

If an employer was forced to choose between hiring an older person, who posed less risk to an employer due to the work experience they had accrued, or a younger person without that experience for the same cost, Mr Lowe said the older person would get the job every time.

"They pose less risk, so why would you do anything else?"

Youth rates were one way of encouraging employers to hire young people who did not come equipped with a full set of work-ready skills, he said.

Opponents to youth rates have said they amounted to two different pay rates for effectively doing the same job, an argument that did not wash with Mr Lowe.

"Those [opponents] are the same people who belive in the same rates of pay regardless of how well someone does their job.

"But if you have a person who is a risk in terms of how well they do their job, then why should you pay them the same as someone who posed less risk."

Assertions that all older workers would be severely disadvantaged by the introduction of youth rates were also dismissed by Mr Lowe.

"That's just rubbish.

"You cannot have a workforce entirely made up of 16 and 17 year olds, just as you couldn't have a society made up entirely of accountants.

"It just wouldn't work. You've got to have a balance."

However, some more mature workers would miss out to their younger counterparts if youth rates were introduced, he said.

"Yes, there will be some older people who may be overlooked for a younger person – but that won't happen on a wholesale scale.

"Anyway, isn't that what we're trying to achieve?

"If we're going to do something about the rate of youth unemployment, isn't that somethat that will help?

"Don't we want more [young people] working?"

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