By Marcus Leach

Chancellor George Osborne should consider introducing a new band of minimum wage to help boost youth unemployment in the face of competition from older workers, claim employment law experts.

The number of 16-24-year-olds unemployed hit 1million last week[/u], with more than twice as many young people now without jobs than the rest of the wider population.

And employment law experts believe that George Osborne urgently needs to take drastic action to give younger workers a chance in the jobs market.

“Since the Government scrapped the default retirement age, more and more workers are remaining in work beyond the age of 65," Peter Mooney, of business support company ELAS, said.

“Until recently, they would have been retiring and freeing up jobs for younger people, while many businesses, particularly those with customer-facing roles, would rather employ more mature workers rather than take on and train young people.

“Current minimum wage regulations mean those under 21 do receive less than older workers, but between the ages of 21 and 24, there’s no incentive for businesses to hire young people — and there should be.”

As the law stands, anybody aged over 21 is entitled to be paid a minimum of £6.08 an hour. This drops to £4.98 for those aged between 18 and 20, and £3.68 for those aged 16-17. Apprentices under the age of 19, or aged 19 and in the first year of an apprenticeship, are entitled to £2.60 an hour.

Mr Mooney argues that a new, temporary band of minimum wage for those aged 21 to 24, set somewhere between £4.98 and £6.08, would encourage businesses to consider hiring those currently facing the greatest difficulty finding work.

“Young people appear to be bearing the brunt of the economic slowdown and the fact that one in five young people are now out of work must be a sign to the Government that something needs to be done," he said.

“Changing the minimum wage in this way would help small businesses and struggling retailers while also making young people that little bit more attractive when competing for jobs.”

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