Young people are being massively short-changed on fair pay, even as David Cameron demands they should be earning or learning, the University and College Union (UCU) has said.
Young workers are now paid less than one third of the average weekly wage, analysis of Government data shows.
They have warned that young people are becoming increasingly alienated without the prospect of secure, decently-rewarded jobs, and have called on the Prime Minister to tackle the underlying issues which hold young people and the country back.
Pay for 16-17 year-olds was reduced by nearly one fifth between 2009 and 2012, despite weekly wages for full-time workers rising by 3.6 per cent in the same period.
Young workers are also nearly six times more likely to suffer low pay than their older peers, analysis of the Government’s Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings data reveals.
The number of young people being paid below the National Minimum Wage has risen to 6.5 per cent in 2012, up from 5.7 per cent the previous year; the nationwide figure is just 1.1 per cent.
“Young people have been the unacknowledged victims of the recession, with those in work seeing their wages fall and those out of work seeing their opportunities reduced,” said UCU general secretary Sally Hunt.
“Research shows that most young people are desperate to work. Falling wages and little job security create a spiral of alienation and underachievement.”
The vast majority (88 per cent) of young people not in employment, education and training want to work or study, recent research by polling consultancy ComRes shows.
Nearly three-quarters (71 per cent) believe they would contribute a lot to society if they were given the right support.
“Government, business, councils, schools and colleges and universities need to work together to help our young people to deliver a well-rewarded labour market, and high quality education and training,” said Ms Hunt.
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “We recognise there is a real challenge for some young people, which is why we are determined to do everything we can to help them get off benefits and into work.
“But we are also supporting young people to increase their skills and experience so they can move up the career ladder and increase their earnings.”