Under-25s are struggling because they don't earn living wage, says charity
Young people are missing out on up to £6,300 a year because they are not entitled to the national living wage, new research reveals.
A study by the Young Women's Trust estimated that more than one million people under the age of 25 are being paid as much as £3.45 an hour less for doing the same jobs as older employees.
The charity said support for extending the living wage to under 25-year-olds was strong, with most employers believing young people should be paid the same as older staff doing the same work.
Young Women's Trust chief executive Dr Carole Easton said: "Politicians are increasingly asking themselves how they can win young people's votes. It's time they started asking young people. Young people are telling us day-in, day-out, that they are struggling to make ends meet.
"They are falling into debt, using foodbanks in greater numbers and their self-confidence is low. It's no surprise when they are paid less for the same work.
"We all need a basic amount of money to get by, no matter how old we are. The bus to work costs the same, whether you're 24 or 26. Gas and electricity costs the same, regardless of age. Rent doesn't cost any less in your early 20s.
"Much more needs to be done to improve young people's prospects and give them hope for the future. This means giving them the right skills and support to find jobs, ensuring decent and flexible jobs are available, significantly increasing the apprentice minimum wage and changing the law to ensure under-25s are entitled to the same national living wage as everyone else. This would benefit businesses and the economy too."
A survey of 4,000 young people found that the two most popular policies were increasing the minimum wage for apprentices and extending the living wage to under 25s.
The living wage is £7.50 an hour, but 16 and 17-year-olds were being paid £4.05 for doing the same job, said the report.
A Government spokesman said: "Minimum wage rates increased on 1 April, giving workers aged 24 and below their second pay rise in just six months.
"UK employment rates are at a record high and our priority is to help young workers secure work and gain experience and that is reflected in the minimum wage rate structure."
Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, said: "It is simply unfair that younger workers are missing out on so much money when they are working as hard as everyone else.
"This rate imposed on under 25s is completely arbitrary. Evidence shows that their jobs are just as demanding as those over 25 and this gap in pay needs to be closed. All workers, regardless of age, deserve the real living wage."