Under-18s being ‘exploited’ by €7.91 minimum wage – People Before Profit

Over 34,000 young workers are “being exploited” by employers paying them the under-18s minimu...
Faye Curran
Faye Curran

13.10 14 Jun 2023

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Under-18s being ‘exploited’ by...

Under-18s being ‘exploited’ by €7.91 minimum wage – People Before Profit

Faye Curran
Faye Curran

13.10 14 Jun 2023

Share this article

Over 34,000 young workers are “being exploited” by employers paying them the under-18s minimum wage, according to Deputy Bríd Smith.

Under current minimum wage requirements, workers aged 20 years and over must be paid €11.30 an hour.

19-year-olds are entitled to €10.17 an hour, while 18-year-olds can be paid €9.04 an hour. Those under-18 must earn at least €7.91.


People Before Profit have drafted an Equal Pay for Young Workers Bill 2022 that would equalise rates of pay across all age groups.

Speaking to The Pat Kenny Show, Deputy Smith said the bill was inspired by a member of People Before Profit.

“Nicole worked in the Santa’s Grotto at Christmas when she was doing her Leaving Cert and she was doing the very same job alongside other people who were getting €3, €4, €5 an hour more than her,” she said.

“That could be quite insulting to people to say that there is a difference.”

Council of Europe

Deputy Smith said service industry employers who argue there is a difference in workloads and effort depending on age is unfair.

“To say that there's a difference between how a 17-year-old hands you a sandwich and a cup of tea, as against a 20-year-old is stretching it a bit,” she said.

“The Council of Europe has recently found that Ireland is guilty of discrimination against young workers.

“It is a clear form of discrimination for people doing the same work for different rates of pay.

“It's older workers who are paid €11.90 on the minimum wage and [they] replace them with younger workers who can be paid €7, €8, €9 and that's happening in a deliberate, formative way.

“In the current cost of living and housing crisis, people working hours at minimum or low precarious job security are extraordinarily vulnerable to poverty, mental health problems or homelessness – this is the European Council saying that.”

‘Learn the trade’

Supermac’s founder and owner Pat McDonagh said the young people usually are “starting from scratch.”

“You have to learn to trade, you have to learn what you're doing,” he said.

“There is a huge difference between someone who has been there for a couple of years and somebody who's starting off.

“There’s restrictions in the retail area, they can’t sell cigarettes, they can’t sell alcohol, and they have to be finished at 10 o'clock at night.

‘No penalty’

Deputy Smith said young people should incur “no penalty” for being an employee who is not permitted to perform all required tasks due to their age.

“Those who are not doing the Leaving Cert yet, schools are closed and they’re pouring out and they're looking for work,” she said.

“They deserve to be paid properly for the work they do.”

Teenagers eating ice cream E7XWE5 Two girlfriends, teenagers, eating ice cream from cone on the terrace an ice cream parlour, Menton, Alpes-Maritimes

Mr McDonagh said the majority of young people under 18 years of age in employment are not living in rented accommodation and cannot be compared to those over 18 years.

“For the most part, young people are starting off and they're staying at home, so they don't have the same overheads,” he said.

“They don't have the same experience and they have to learn the trade.

“If I were there for four or five years, and I was on the same rate as someone starting off, I'd be very upset.”

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