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The generation gap

Young people in the South West falling behind older, better-paid workers
Hajera Blagg, Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018

Young people in the South West are struggling in low-paid, insecure jobs as their older peers fare better, according to new TUC research showing a growing generational pay gap.


The wage gap between people under 30 in the region and over 30 has more than doubled in the last two decades – in 1998, the gap was just over 11 per cent, or £1.15 an hour in 2017 prices; this figure shot up to 25 per cent last year, or £3 an hour in 2017 prices.


Now, a person over 30 working full-time can expect to earn £6,240 each year more than a person under 30. In 1998, the pay premium for full-time workers over 30 was only £2,392 adjusted for today’s prices.


“Young people are getting a raw deal at work,” said TUC regional secretary for the South West Nigel Costley. “Too many are stuck in low-paid, insecure jobs, with little opportunity to get on in life.


“This is the most qualified group of workers ever. But huge numbers of hardworking young people are struggling to meet basic living costs – and many more can’t afford a home of their own or are putting off having children.


“Joining together in a trade union is the best way to get a better deal at work. That’s why we’re committed to reaching out to more young people in workplaces where there isn’t a union.”


Unite acting regional secretary for the South West Steve Preddy agreed. He said that he did not find the latest research surprising.


“Young people in the South West face a deluge of zero hours contracts, agency work and other insecure forms of employment, which are typically much lower-paid,” he said. “With insecure work also often comes bullying and other forms of abuse.”


“Even though many young people may be eminently qualified – as the TUC highlights workers under 30 are the most qualified group of workers ever, with a large share of them being post-graduates – they still bear the biggest brunt of austerity and, having come of age during the financial crisis, they’ve inherited an economy that simply doesn’t work for the ordinary working person.”


The figures published this week (August 21) are part of wider research the TUC has conducted on young people and work nationally.


Of the young people the TUC spoke to, about 1 in 4 people between the ages of 21 and 30 said they struggle to earn enough to meet their basic living costs. One in 5 said they skipped a main meal in the last year because of a shortage of money, while 1 in 3 young parents said they did.


Nearly half of the young people surveyed said they had to borrow money from friends or family to make ends meet, while about a quarter said they went without heating in the last year or were forced to sell or pawn something.


The vast majority – nearly 70 per cent – did not feel that their current job makes the most of their skills and abilities. This figure shoots up to 84 per cent for those in part-time jobs.


Preddy said sectoral collective bargaining – for all industries and all types of work – is an important solution to the plight of young people stuck in insecure work.


Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner agreed.


“An outright ban on zero hour contracts, tighter laws to prevent bogus self-employment, the introduction of sectoral collective bargaining and a £10 minimum wage would go a long way to rebalancing the labour market,” he said.


“Crucially, the government must give trade unions improved access to workplaces. This would stop young workers from being prevented from organising for better wages and conditions by exploitative employers.”

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