Minimum Wage – Is It Fair?

Establishing a legal requirement for a minimum wage was seen as a breakthrough in employment rights in the UK in 1999.  However, many claim that the existing requirement is still not adequate to cope with basic living costs and some have even claimed that specifying rates by age group discriminates against younger workers.

What is the national minimum hourly wage in the UK?

21 and over
18 to 20
Under 18
2013 (current rate)


*This rate is for apprentices under 19 or those in the first year of their apprenticeship.


Why do some people claim that the UK minimum wage is unfair?

Research by The Living Wage Foundation claims that the UK minimum wage for adults over the age of 21 needs to be raised to £7.65 per hour (£8.80 in London).  The ‘living wage’ is calculated annually and based on the basic cost of living in the UK.  It averages costs for different types of household and excludes costs of rent, council tax and childcare.  According to their research, income below this level will result in ‘income poverty’ which will significantly impact on quality of life.  They invite employers to sign up to support the living wage.  Their research also reports that, for businesses, paying a living wage increases work quality and reduces absenteeism.  Therefore they claim that the national minimum wage is unfair as it is not enough to meet basic living costs.

Is the minimum wage fair for younger workers?

The British Youth Council is campaigning against age-related increments in the national minimum wage.  Their campaign ‘Equal Pay for Equal Work’ asks for 16-21 year olds to be entitled to the same hourly wage as older workers.

The original rationale for an age-related minimum wage was that this would encourage businesses to employ younger people and to take on apprentices as their labour would be cheaper.  But the British Youth Council refer to the similarity in living costs for younger and older workers such as rent, bills and transport that are not differentiated by age.  As well as this, many young people now have to work more to meet the increasing costs of higher education and inequalities in the costs of car insurance, all of which can impact on their academic success.

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