Youth and entry level wages

If the minimum wage is $16.87 per hour, how come I only get $6.21 per hour for my job at the supermarket? Surely this can’t be correct or fair?

We are not sure that it’s fair – more about that later – but it’s correct that the minimum wage for people under 21 years is lower that the adult minimum wage.

There are special national minimum wages for trainees, apprentices and juniors.

For junior workers, the minimum wage is a percentage of the adult wage for a particular job (see the table from 1 July 2014).  The adult minimum wage is $16.87 an hour.


Minimum wage by age
set by Fair Work Australia (1 July 2014)
% of national minimum wage
Minimum hourly rate
Under 16


One of the most frequent complaints about youth wages is the lower rates for 18, 19 and 20 year olds. Recently unions have argued that 21 is an old fashioned idea of adulthood. After all, you can vote and drive a car when you turn 18 – it doesn’t seem right to get less pay for the same job.

Employers argue that youth wages rates encourage them to employ more young people – and that this gives people a better chance of getting their first job.

Read more about union campaigns for adult rates for 18+

MORE INFO: There are also special minimum wage rates for apprentices, trainees and people with a disability. The minimum wages for apprentices and trainees are like training wages, which assume that you are learning on the job and not yet fully skilled. The Fair Work Ombudsman website has more detailed information

Unions are calling for 100% pay for 18+ workers

Here are some of the pros and cons of youth wages. What do you think?


Youth wages help people get their first jobs
Pay goes up as you get older
Encourages employers to hire more young people


Employers hire by age rather than skill
People get laid off as they get older
It’s not fair to pay a 21 year old more than an 18 for the same work

Relevant Resources

First Job, Pay, Rights at work, Uncategorized
9: Getting paid!
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Equality, Pay, Rights at work
The gender pay gap
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Young worker blows the whistle on underpaid staff
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