Minimum wage hike to benefit millions

More
than a million workers stand to benefit when the national minimum wage goes up
tomorrow.

The
rate increases to £4.50 an hour for people aged 22 and over and rises to £3.80
for 18-21 year olds.

The
increase in the main rate will benefit between 1.3 and 1.6m workers. It is
around double the rate of average earnings growth and almost three times the
rate of inflation.

Trade
and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt said: "The minimum wage, a
milestone in preventing employers exploiting cheap labour, is up this week for
the fifth time to £4.50 an hour. And next year, subject to economic conditions,
another above-inflation increase to £4.85 will bring us in reach of the £5 minimum
wage.

"We
are committed to eradicating poverty pay. Despite the scare mongering, which
claimed jobs would be put at risk by the minimum wage, we now have record
levels of employment."

The
Low Pay Commission will review further increases for October 2004 to £4.85 per
hour for adults and £4.10 for the youth rate. The increase could benefit as
many as 2.4m workers.

The
Government has also asked the Low Pay Commission to look at the possible
advantages and disadvantages of a minimum wage rate for 16- and 17-year-olds.

The
minimum wage in the UK is higher than in Spain, Greece and Portugal and
comparable with France and Belgium.

By Quentin Reade

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