Poverty wages are any wage structures which pay less than the recognised poverty wage – 50% of the Median Adult Full-Time Ordinary Time Earnings.
This rate in Australia is $20.80 per hour as a base rate.
In Australia, huge numbers of workers earn less than this rate.
The enforceable minimum wages in retail and fast food mean:
- every worker under the age of 21 (other than those in retail who are 20 and have 6 months or more service) are paid a poverty wage;
- every worker with a disability paid a supported wage is paid a poverty wage;
- every trainee paid a trainee wage is on a poverty wage; and
- every apprentice paid apprentice wages is paid a poverty wage.
We are one of the few countries in the world which has junior rates for those under 21 years of age. Many of our workplaces rely almost entirely on young workers earning up to 250% less than the adult wage. For example, 80% of McDonald’s workers are under 21.
Young workers aren’t expected to do 250% less work so why do we get paid less. It’s time we caught up with most of the rest of the world and abolished junior rates.