According to a new report by the TUC, the pay gap between young and older workers has increased by more than half in the last 20 years.

The study, “Stuck at the start. Young workers’ experiences of pay and progression” shows that in 1998 the pay gap between the over 30s and under 30s of 14.5 per cent had widened to 21.9 per cent by 2017.

The report also revealed that young workers are increasingly likely to be concentrated in low-paid, low-skilled sectors, with few opportunities for progression. For instance, more than a third (36.1per cent) of under-30s currently work in caring, sales or elementary occupations, compared to just over a quarter (25.8p per cent) of over-30s.

The number of 21-30 year-olds working in low-paid industries like private social care (+104 per cent) and hotels and restaurants (+80 per cent) has also shot up since 1998, even though today’s young workers are the most qualified generation ever.

Indeed the report shows that just three in 10 (31 per cent) feel that their current job makes the most of their experience and qualifications, with four in 10 (38 per cent) saying that they were offered few or no training opportunities in the last year. About a fifth have worked on a zero-hours contract in the last five years, while nearly a quarter (23 per cent) have struggled to earn enough to pay basic living costs.

The TUC is therefore urging government and employers to help today’s young workers progress in work by:

  • raising the rate of the national minimum wage for over-25s and lowering the age limit to 21
  • strengthening employment rights
  • increasing spending on public services that pay poorly, such as social care
  • investing in high quality in-work training and apprenticeships
  • creating genuinely flexible part-time work at all levels of an organisation

In response to falling union membership among the young the TUC is also piloting a digital app – WorkSmart - that will help young workers to progress at work, build relationships with co-workers and learn about their rights. The project has been in development for two years, and aims to develop a model of trade unionism better-suited to a new generation of workers.

Neil Todd of Thompsons Solicitors commented: “The report makes clear how difficult things are today for the youngest generation at work. The TUC is right to make recommendations to address this and the government should act to confront the problem. The UK can only succeed if this generation is given the opportunity to develop and reach their full potential.”

Visit the TUC website to read the report in full.