Cuts to youth wages

March 4, 1992

Cuts to youth wages

Keating's package shares with Hewson's a determination to cut youth wages.

The Liberals simply assert that cutting youth wages is the solution to youth unemployment, currently about 30% nationally. Keating's approach is more underhanded. His plan to cut youth wages comes in a section dealing with apprenticeships and training.

Keating notes a decline in the number of apprentices and concerns about the quality of training they receive. His solution is to increase the subsidy to employers and to include more formal training. Then he pulls out the knife:

"Those participating could be regarded as trainees rather than as workers.

"Existing arrangements regarding youth wages would then need to be examined to take account of the change in the status of the individual, the higher quality of training provided and the need to ensure an adequate number of training positions within industry are available for young people."

But youth wages are already very low. According to Russell Bankroft, a research officer with the Victorian Trades Hall Council, a 16-year-old worker is entitled to only $190 a week in the clothing and footwear industry, $185 as a storeperson, $170 as a kindergarten or day-care assistant and $190 as a typist. This is just on the poverty line.

"Sixteen-year-olds must pay the same for food, clothing and transport as an adult, and lower wages may simply force them out of the market", Bankroft said.

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