Of course 16 year olds should be paid the same wage as their older colleagues. The issue is surely their ability to do the job rather than their age. The next time you go into a shop and see the youngsters skulking around consider this; it may well be because they’re being paid half of what the older workers are on and they’re pissed off about it.
The differential hourly rate for younger and older people gives employers an incentive to sack older workers and replace them with younger people who can do the job just as well but are that much cheaper. (Younger people are also less aware of their rights and less unionised.) For that reason If I was an older worker it would be in my interest to see everyone else doing the job paid the same rate.
Imagine if an employer were allowed to pay women less for doing exactly the same work as men simply because they are female or to pay black people less than their white colleagues? Until the Race and the Sex Discrimination Acts employers were actually allowed to do just that. We look back on it now with outrage.
Age is the last barrier. Age discrimination legislation is aimed at protecting older people but not younger ones. The real reason for the lower hourly rate for younger people has simply been to save money for employers.
A 16 year old may well be less capable at doing a job than her older colleague but the way to deal with it is to gradually increase the salary over time based on how long they have been doing the job or their increasing competence, not on their age. For every workplace where I have seen older people outperform their younger colleagues I have seen as many younger people (particularly in areas where technology is used), outperform their older colleagues.
In the past young people have traditionally not voted so governments, especially the Tories (who have the lowest share of the young vote) could happily discriminate against them knowing there would be no electoral comeback. The dramatic increase in the number of young people voting in the 2017 General Election means they’re not going to stand for this kind of age discrimination for much longer.
And you wonder why they’re chanting “Oh Jeremy Corbyn” at Glastonbury?