Poor youth pay is wrong path

May 14, 2016

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (left) speaks to locals during a street walk at the Bayside Village shopping centre in Adelaide, Friday, May 13, 2016. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch) NO ARCHIVING

When I was 14 I got my first job putting bread, salad and meat together, at one of Australia’s favourite fast food sandwich shops.

Excited at the prospect of making my own money, I put on my freshly ironed apron and sun-visor cap and headed to work at Subway.

As 14-year-old Emily blissfully worked her way from trainee to full-blown sandwich artist, she didn’t realise how little she was actually making. Chopping up lettuces, mopping floors and baking cookie dough actually only amounted to $5 an hour.

But that was more than 10 years ago now and I look back with nostalgia, as it taught me to work hard and how to make an excellent club sandwich (although the lingering yeasty smell has haunted me for the past decade).

The Federal Government has created an internship program which could see young jobseekers potentially paid less than 14-year-old Emily.

Australian unions say the government’s Prepare, Trial and Hire (PaTH) internship program could see young people earn $4 an hour.

On Thursday the Sydney Morning Herald revealed this plan could potentially be illegal, as it could breach minimum wage laws.

PaTH interns who work up to 25 hours a week would receive $364 as opposed to the $432.25 that the minimum wage legally demands.

The reforms have been named “a centrepiece of Malcolm Turnbull’s re-election platform” but it just leaves me thinking about how out-of-touch this government is with young people.

Shepparton has massive youth unemployment and youth homelessness issues and trying to force young people to work on this wage would only intensify these problems and leave the door open for exploitation.

I’ve undertaken several unpaid internships, for about three to four weeks at a time, and they were hugely beneficial to helping me get in the door in my chosen field but that doesn’t mean this internship trend (read: underpaid labour) is the right thing for young people.

Advocating for more underpaid internships is a dangerous trend in the workforce that should not be supported by our government.

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