HC Deb 27 February 1986 vol 92 cc1058-9
10. Mr. Nellist

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many workers under 21 years presently work in industries in Northern Ireland covered by wages councils agreements.

Dr. Boyson

It is estimated that some 6,000 workers in the wages council system in Northern Ireland are under the age of 21 years.

Mr. Nellist

Is the Minister aware that in our debates on wages council reform Tory Members and Ministers said that 8,000 jobs would be created over five years from the abolition of protection for those under the age of 21? Is he aware that that works out at 37 jobs a year for the 17 constituencies in Northern Ireland? Is the Minister and his colleagues, who earn up to £40,000 a year, telling 6,000 young workers who earn £30 or £40 a week that they must take wage cuts of £5 or £10 a week, when 125,000 people are unemployed; to create only 37 jobs a year?

Dr. Boyson

I hope that every hon. Member will welcome any extra jobs in Northern Ireland, in whatever constituency they are created. Obviously there is a difference of opinion between the hon. Gentleman and Conservative Members about wages councils. On 11 February we debated the Wages Bill. We believe that if juvenile wages are too high compared with adult wages there will be juvenile unemployment. Compared with Germany and the rest of Europe, juvenile wages in the United Kingdom are undoubtedly higher, and we have higher juvenile unemployment.

Mr. Forth

Does my hon. Friend agree that young people would rather gain work experience at the going rate and get involved in jobs than be unemployed at a theoretical and far too high wage rate?

Dr. Boyson

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. Surveys have shown that 80 per cent. of young people want jobs. Obviously if they are trained in those jobs they can, as full journeymen and adults, earn higher wages. If they do not get a job in the first place, they will be on the dole for years to come.

Ms. Clare Short

Is the Minister aware that since 1979 youth wages throughout the United Kingdom have dropped considerably, and youth unemployment has risen massively? Is he further aware that wages in Northern Ireland are lower than in any other part of the United Kingdom? Is he seriously advocating further cuts in the wages of young workers in Northern Ireland?

Dr. Boyson

We would all welcome a high-wage economy in Northern Ireland by people working, producing the right goods and selling them throughout the world. If one compares juveniles' wages in the United Kingdom with apprentices' wages in West Germany, one sees that in the United Kingdom they are 50 to 60 per cent. of the adult wage, whereas in Germany they are between 15 and 25 per cent., which means that there is less juvenile unemployment there.

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