Statement on Proposed Youth Employment Opportunity Wage Legislation

March 25, 1985

One of the Nation's most serious and longstanding problems is providing adequate employment opportunities for our young people. Even in times of great economic prosperity, unemployment remains a significant problem for young people, particularly young blacks and Hispanics. The purpose of the draft youth employment opportunity wage act of 1985 is to make it possible for employers to expand job opportunities for young people during a period of special need -- when young people are looking for summer jobs.

The proposal would permit employers to pay young people under 20 years of age, from May 1 through September 30, a wage of no less than either 75 percent of the otherwise applicable minimum wage or $2.50 per hour, whichever is less. The bill also provides explicit protections for adult workers and previously hired youth to ensure that they will not be adversely affected by the summer wage differential.

Studies over the past decade have repeatedly demonstrated that the minimum wage has reduced job opportunities for large numbers of our unskilled young people by pricing them out of the job market. This is particularly true for jobs that involve initial training. There is a growing consensus that summer job opportunities for youth, especially minority youth, will be greatly expanded if the summer wage differential can be implemented. This will allow more young people than ever to find jobs, earn money, and gain the experience and skills needed for future work and higher wages. The bill would in no way diminish the opportunities for higher wages for those with job skills.

Many organizations, large and small, including the National Conference of Black Mayors, the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education, representing the presidents of America's historically black colleges, and the Boys Clubs of America, have formally endorsed the concept of a youth employment opportunity wage. I am grateful for their support.

I urge the Congress to enact this legislation soon. We cannot afford to waste another summer that would otherwise produce jobs, including that important first job experience, for our young people.