A right-of-centre think tank has been attacked for calling for the national minimum wage to be abolished for apprentices and under-18s.
The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) said the statutory rate had failed to reduce poverty since it was introduced 15 years ago, and actually hit job opportunities for the young and unskilled.
The minimum wage, which is supported by all sides of industry, has led to employers becoming "choosier" in employment, the group claimed.
Brian Strutton, national officer of the GMB union, said: "The axe-grinding Institute for Economic Affairs, as usual, starts with its prejudiced conclusions and argues back, against all the evidence, to criticise the national minimum wage.
"If they had their way, poverty pay would be the norm and benefit dependency would be even greater than it is already.
"The minimum wage has not had the detrimental effect on employment that right-wing lobbyists like the IEA predicted and they should admit that.
"Their negative comments towards young unemployed people are particularly distasteful."
Martin Freedman, director of economic strategy and negotiation at the Association of Teacher and Lecturers, said: "The Institute of Economic Affairs has produced a risible report unfairly blaming the £2.68 an hour minimum wage for apprenticeships for pricing a million young people out of jobs on the grounds employers can't afford to pay it.