HC Deb 18 March 1986 vol 94 cc147-9
4. Mr. Sheerman

asked the Paymaster General if he will give the figures for the percentage increase in youth wages since 1979.

11. Mr. Randall

asked the Paymaster General what has been the change in wage levels for under 18-year-olds since 1979.

The Paymaster General and Minister for Employment (Mr. Kenneth Clarke)

Between April 1979 and April 1985 the average earnings of girls increased by 77 per cent. and those of boys by 72 per cent.

Mr. Sheerman

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that those figures prove that the incomes of young people are increasing much more slowly than adult incomes? Is he aware also that youth unemployment is twice adult unemployment? Is it the Government's policy to prepare a large number of young people for low wages in a dual wage economy of the future?

Mr. Clarke

The hon. Member should be pleased that youth unemployment is falling so steadily in Britain. In the three years up to January 1986 unemployment among young people under 18 years fell by 13 per cent. It is important that young people should not expect too high a rate of pay in their first years of work before they acquire the training and experience of their older colleagues.

Mr. Forth

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that it is totally irresponsible for the Opposition and the trade unions to encourage young people to expect excessively high wages in the early stages of their careers? It is important for us to understand, as the Germans have, that while young people are undergoing training they must expect relatively low rates of pay so that they may justify the full rate when they are fully trained to do the job.

Mr. Clarke

I agree with my hon. Friend. The Opposition spokesmen no doubt calculate that it sounds attractive to young people, but their policies would price many more young people out of jobs. The attacks by the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) on the youth training scheme are nothing short of disgraceful, as he has tried to discredit a successful scheme.

Mr. Nellist

If the Minister had given the figures for inflation alongside the figures that he gave in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman), they would have shown that for boys leaving school there has been a 12 per cent. fall in their net pay compared with adults in 1979, that there has been a 13 per cent. fall for girls, and that at the same time youth unemployment has trebled. It ill-behoves a Minister of the Government on almost £1,000 a week to tell young workers on £40 or £50 to cut their wages to get more jobs. Wages for youth have fallen and youth unemployment has trebled.

Mr. Clarke

The hon. Gentleman is ignoring the fact that it is only in the past two or three years that young people's pay has fallen relative to adults' pay. It is only in the past two or three years that the rate of unemployment among young people has fallen. That may be in conflict with the hon. Gentleman's policies, but the facts refute his claims.

Mr. Cockeram

Under the wages council's regulations, are not the wage rates for school leavers 60 per cent. of the adult rate? Is that not one of the highest school leaver rates in western Europe, and is it not a contributory factor to unemployment among school leavers?

Mr. Clarke

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. That is why we have the Wages Bill before the House. We are reforming a system that has priced too many young people out of the first job that they could have had when they left school.

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