Youth employment on the agenda

Glenrothes - Mar 2015This morning I joined colleagues in Glenrothes as Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet continues to tour the country.

Employment was top of the agenda as Jim Murphy unveiled a range of policies to help make sure young Scots in the workplace get a fairer deal.

This includes plans to support the roll out of the living wage, to tackle exploitative zero hours contracts and to increase the national minimum wage for all age groups.

Nearly one in five Scots who are in work earn less than the living wage, currently set at £7.85 an hour. Research highlighted by the Living Wage Foundation has found that young people, women and part-time workers are significantly more likely to earn less than this benchmark for the basic cost of living.

While some progress on the living wage has been made in the public sector, there is more we can do. For example, Scottish Labour is committed to introducing legislation that would require any firm awarded a Scottish Government contract to pay the living wage to its workers.  At the same time we will work with the private sector to support and promote the living wage while tackling low pay and low skills. We want to work with local authorities to link these issues to business support and incentives such as rates relief.

Across Scotland, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) has estimated that 60,000 Scots are currently on zero hours contracts (although the STUC has suggested the figure could be around 84,000).  Citizens Advice Scotland has raised concerns about the increasing misuse use of these contracts which, again, disproportionately affect young people and women.

In many cases, zero hours contracts exploit workers and Scottish Labour is determined to take action. Proposals include a right to a fixed-hours contract for employees who have consistently worked regular hours, ensuring compensation arrangements for individuals whose shifts are cut a short notice and a ban on the use of zero hours from public contracts.

According to the ONS, as many as 13,000 people in Scotland are still being paid less than the National Minimum Wage. At a UK level, Labour is committed to increasing the National Minimum Wage across the age bands.  We are also committed to increasing fines for employers who fail to pay the minimum wage and  to providing more effective enforcement action.

In each of these areas, it is young people who are most disadvantaged.  Our new policies will help to address these inequalities to give young people the best possible chance in life‎.