Socialist Worker

Young workers hit hard, says new TUC study

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2607

TUC general secretary Frances OGrady has verbally attacked the gap between young and poor workers - getting real change will take more than words though

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady has verbally attacked the gap between young and poor workers - getting real change will take more than words though


A series of figures have shown the heavy price of austerity on workers’ living standards.

They should act as a spur to more resistance, to building stronger unions, and to oppose pay deals that are lower than the rate of inflation.

The pay gap between young and older workers has increased by more than half in the past 20 years, new research reveals.

A study by the TUC trade union federation found that the difference in pay between over 30s and younger employees was £1.51 an hour in 1998, rising to £2.81 an hour last year.

The TUC said its report showed the challenges young people faced, including low pay, job insecurity and lack of progression.

A survey of 1,500 young adults by the TUC found that one in five had worked on a zero hours contract and one in four had struggled to pay for basic living costs.

The number of 21- to 30-year-olds working in precarious, often low-paid work has exploded, according to the report.

The generational pay gap has increased in real terms from £3,140 in 1998 to £5,884 in 2017 for someone working a 40-hour week.

Insecure

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said, "We are creating a lost generation of younger workers. Too many young people 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 hard working young people are struggling to meet basic living costs and many more can't afford a home or are putting off having children."

All very true. But the TUC, and the individual union leaders, can’t escape their own failure to campaign for united action that could push back against the bosses and the government.

Too often there have been deals that lead to a two-tier workforce where new recruits are brought in on much worse pay and conditions than existing ones. That hits young workers hard.

And the lack of strikes in general means that it's harder to organise in new sectors of employment.

“For a lot of young people their experience is that the world of work is by its nature insecure. That not being paid properly is normal and they are supposed to be just grateful,” said O’Grady.

“The decline in collective bargaining has had huge impact. But the whole point of trade unions is we are about raising expectations and saying you deserve to have a job that gives you enough to live on. We are failing young people if they don’t see us as a route to achieving that,” she admitted.

Another analysis, by a right wing think tanks, shows the wages of 10 million low-paid workers have been stagnant or falling for two decades and will be under pressure for a decade to come.

The analysis by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), chaired by the former Tory leader and bitter enemy of the poor Iain Duncan Smith, concludes that wages of those on the lowest salaries stalled long before the 2008 financial crash.

It warns that the current evidence shows that most never escape a life on low pay.

The CSJ report states that 20 percent of Britain’s 33 million workers earn no more than £15,000 a year, and that 50 percent earn less than £23,200.

Predictably the authors want less tax on business and less regulation. These are the sort of policies that have made bosses more able to impose low wages.


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