From the TUC

Why we need TUC Young Workers Month

01 Nov 2014, By

It’s the start of TUC Young Workers Month (YWM). The main purpose of YWM is to promote trade unions to young workers and to highlight the issues faced by young workers.

This years activities, organised by the TUC and our affiliated unions, are focused on the key issues; jobs, pay, homes and voice inside & outside the workplace.

Whilst the government sings its own praises about a record number of people in employment, you only have to look at the type of employment to realise that things are not as rosy as they seem. Whilst youth unemployment has gone down, the rate is still more than twice the rate of unemployment as a whole and the overall picture doesn’t look that convincing when you consider the following;

  • Three quarters of a million 16-24 year olds are unemployed
  • Young people are the only age group where long-term unemployment rose in the latest figures
  • Government plans are set to withdraw benefits from young people unemployed over 6 months, leaving them with no alternative to workfare.

Where young people are in employment, a record number are working in insecure jobs, with no guarantee of regular hours or regular pay. Rather than permanent contracts that offer stability, a high proportion of under 35s are working in short-term, fixed-term, zero-hours, agency work, temporary work and part-time placements.  The TUC’s Casulisation and Low Pay report shows that:

  • 31% of all temporary workers are aged under 25
  • 38% of all those employed on zero hour contracts are aged under 30
  • 34% of all agency workers aged under 30

Low pay -and too often no pay- is a reality and serious cause for concern for many young workers. Often just out of education young people find themselves in a highly competitive market, where the jobs that match their qualifications seem almost unobtainable. In fact getting any kind of job is difficult without first undertaking some sort of unpaid internship or work experience.  Pay discrimination in respect of young workers is endemic with many paid less then their older colleagues even though they may be doing the same job.

  • Research by the Resolution Foundation found that almost three in 10 (29%) of those aged 21 to 30 are now low paid – equating to almost 1.5 million young workers.
  • Young workers earn less than the average median wage. The mean hourly rate for 16-17 year olds is £5.26 per hour and for 81-21 year olds its £7.62, compared with a mean average hourly rate of £15.15 for all employees.
  • The minimum wage for 18-20 year olds is just £5.13 and for apprentices just £2.73, compared to £6.21 for 21 and over.
  • 29 per cent of apprentices are paid below the applicable NMW rate
  • 183,000 of national minimum wage jobs are done by 18-20 year olds (17.8 per cent of jobs in the age group), and 39,000 jobs held by 16-17 year olds (14.7 per cent of jobs in the age group).

Low pay and insecure work has meant young people find it increasingly hard to access decent, affordable housing. Current government policies are failing young people and levels of house building are at an all time low whist home ownership has declined to its lowest level in 30 years.

  • Record number of young people living at home with parents- one in four young adults are now living at home with their parents into their thirties
  • 3 million 20- to 34-year-olds lived with their parents in 2013, according to theOffice for National Statistics, the highest number since it started keeping records in 1996.
  • The average age of a first-time house buyer has risen to 35.
  • A recent TUC Young Workers Housing survey found that almost 40% of respondents under 35 had to save for more than 5 years to raise enough money for a mortgage, a further 60% said they relied on financial help from friends and family to pay their deposit.
  • The survey also found 75% of private renters said they would buy their own home if they had the money.

If we are to build a fairer, more equal Britain then it’s vital that as many people as possible exercise their democratic right and vote and nowhere is that need greater than when it comes to young people:

  • In the 2010 general Election barely more than four in ten people in the 18 to 24 year-old age group voted.
  • According to research by Electoral Reform Society almost 1 million 18-21 year olds are missing from the electoral register.

But young people need a voice at work as well as in society in general. That’s why its a serious concern that just 7 per cent of young workers aged between 16-24 are members of a trade union.

Making sure young people know how to vote and are registered to vote is a priority campaign for the TUC young workers forum and they have produced registration packs with bite the ballot to promote voter registration to young workers- these packs will be available to download on 24th November from the TUC website.

The TUC Young Workers Forum are also working on a joint strategy for Organising Young Workers, after a motion was passed at TUC Congress 2014 calling for a targeted approach to recruiting and organising young workers.

Young Workers Month is an opportunity for union reps, activists and campaigners to reach out and inform young workers about trade unions and ensure that there are sufficient opportunities for young people to get involved and play an active role in shaping the movement. It’s also a chance for unions to demonstrate to young people that we are campaigning on the issues they care most about and that we are relevant to their lives both in the workplace and beyond.

Unions have organised a series of events and activities which will be taking place throughout this November. TUC regions will also be running joint activity across the country. The National TUC office have organised the Big TUC Youth Debate , a Young Leaders training weekend and produced a new Young Workers recruitment video.

Help us promote the month and show your support with the Young Workers Month twibbon and by tweeting using the hashtag #YWM14

For more facts and statistics on the issues affecting young workers, visit the TUC Young Workers section of the TUC Website.