Earnings gap between millennials and older workers doubles in 20 years

Earnings gap between millennials and older workers doubles in 20 years

If you're a young worker and you feel like there's a growing inter-generational divide in incomes, a recent survey suggests you're right.

The earnings gap between millennials and older workers has almost doubled in the past 20 years, research by the Trades Union Congress has revealed. 

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Meanwhile the TUC leader Frances O'Grady (@FrancesOGrady) has called for a "civil rights movement for young people".

The trade union's generational pay gap report, Stuck at the start, found the average young worker is only £42 a week better off than young workers were 20 years ago. By contrast, the average older worker is £95 a week better off – more than double the rate of younger workers.

General secretary Frances O'Grady warned against creating "a lost generation of younger workers" and said "too many young people are stuck in low-paid, insecure jobs, with little opportunity to get on in life" - despite being "the most qualified group of workers ever".

The gap between average earnings of 21-30 year-olds and 31-64 year-olds working an average 40-hour week has increased in real terms (with the effects of inflation included) from £3,140 in 1998 to £5,884 in 2017. That’s a total increase of £2,744 over the last two decades.

The report also included new polling of younger workers which found:

  • Just three in 10 (31% have felt that their current job makes the most of their experience and qualifications
  • Four in 10 (38%) have had few or no training opportunities in the last year
  • One in five (23%) have worked on a zero-hours contract in the last five years
  • Nearly a quarter (23%) have struggled to earn enough to pay basic living costs, and one in five have skipped a main meal to make ends meet in the last year
  • Because of concerns about finances: 22% have put off starting a family and 41% have put off buying or moving home

TUC policy officer Kathryn Mackridge shared the research in a post titled “younger workers are getting stuck, not getting on”. She called the report a “wake-up call” for the trade union movement, which told the BBC today that union membership levels among under-30s had fallen to 15.7 per cent last year, compared to 20.1 per cent in 2001. 

Frances O’Grady, who became it's first female leader in 2013, told the BBC’s Kamal Ahmed (@bbckamal) that the union has a “problem” in reaching young people. 

It has launched a new app, WorkSmart, and aims to use the power of online networks to reinvent itself. 

In an interview with The Guardian's Alexandra Topping (@LexyTopping) she said: "If we've got a digital economy we've got to have a digital trade unionism.

"And if we have young people whose bosses will do everything they can to avoid recognising a union, we don't walk away, we reinvent ourselves, we do something new. If you can't get through the front door, you go around the back. I want that spirit that we are a 'have-a-go' movement.

"Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could say: would you like to talk to other baristas, or people working in this company? This is the great efficiency of cooperation and organising: we can begin to bring people together online and offline to get a better deal for people at work."

Read more: Could the government give £10,000 to everyone aged under 25?

Read more: A third of millennials face renting into retirement

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