Should Teens Earn Less Than Adults?

Some lawmakers believe that lowering the minimum wage for young people will encourage more businesses to hire them. Would you say this is a smart move to help teens get jobs—or is it fundamentally unfair? 

You can't ignore the facts: Teens face the highest unemployment rate of all age groups in the United States, so it’s time to take action. According to a recent government survey, 15.8 percent of people ages 16 to 19 are unemployed, compared with just 4.5 percent of people age 20 and over. If we can’t find entry-level jobs, our individual futures are in jeopardy—and it’s dangerous for the future of our country as well. 

The truth is, so many more teens would be hired if they didn’t have to be paid the same amount as adults. It’s just common sense. If I ran a business and had to choose between hiring either a teen or an adult for the same wage, I would obviously prefer to hire the more experienced and qualified grown-up. But if I could spend less money to get the same amount of work done, I’d have more incentive to hire younger, less-experienced employees and put in the extra time and effort to train them properly. 

Sure, it might be frustrating to earn a lower wage, but you have to remember—there are other benefits to having an after-school or summer job. Last year, I worked at a camp, where I gained real-world experience, learned about my strengths and weaknesses, and developed important life skills, like how to behave professionally. 

That job looks great on my college résumé— plus, I had fun! If you miss out on these opportunities to grow and learn because a more experienced person got the job you applied for, it will certainly hurt you more in the long run than a smaller paycheck will. 

Some people think that letting businesses pay teens less than the minimum wage encourages them to take advantage of us—but if we can’t get hired to begin with, we won’t make any money at all! Getting paid a reduced hourly wage ensures that we still earn a paycheck, along with a chance to explore the workforce and prepare for our future. 

It allows us room to grow both our skills and our earnings, even in a tough job market. That’s what truly matters. 

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You can't discriminate against someone because of his or her age! That’s ridiculous. Our country has a minimum wage so that people are paid fairly for the work they do—and that should apply to everyone who has a job, not just those over 18. 

I might not be an adult yet, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have expenses of my own to worry about. As a 15-year-old high school student, I need to pay for everything from AP tests to soccer equipment. And what if I need to save for college later on? The average cost of attending a four-year public school is more than $34,000 right now, and tuitions have been rising dramatically in recent decades. Investing in an education is rapidly becoming more and more expensive, so teens truly need every penny they can earn. 

Aside from helping young people pay expenses and save for their futures, I agree—jobs do teach teens important skills that will benefit them throughout their lives. But what’s to motivate us to want a job right now if we’re only receiving a tiny paycheck? 

Between school, homework, family obligations, and other extracurricular activities, today’s teens are insanely busy. Taking on a part-time job makes life even more hectic, and it’s only worth it if you’re earning a decent hourly wage. Otherwise, you might as well concentrate on your schoolwork and activities instead. 

In addition, lower wages can cause problems for employers and managers. If I worked for a company that paid adolescents less than grown-ups, I’d feel discouraged, and I might be more likely to look for a position elsewhere. It’s also possible that some teens might feel resentful that they’re being paid less money to do the same job as others, leading to poor morale that hurts the workplace and the company overall. 

Here’s the bottom line: Businesses should treat all of their employees equally, no matter how young or old they are. That way, we can all work together happily. Fair pay for hard work is an American value. 

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