Trade union leaders have called for all apprentices to be legally entitled to the national minimum wage.
The TUC said too many people were dropping out of vocational training courses because they could not afford to complete them.
Apprentices are entitled to £80 per week – equivalent to just £2 per hour if they work eight hours a day, Monday to Friday. In many sectors, less than two-thirds of apprentices complete their courses.
The national minimum wage currently stands at £5.52 per hour for all workers aged 22 or above. It is £3.40 for 16 to 17-year-olds, and £4.60 for those between 18 and 21.
In a submission to the Low Pay Commission’s review of the apprentice exemption to the minimum wage, the TUC calls for a staggering of wages.
The union umbrella body suggests apprentices aged 21 or older should receive at least £4.90 per hour from next October, and £5 per hour from 2010.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “Increasing completion rates is absolutely vital to the success of apprenticeships.
“Ten years on from the minimum wage becoming law, millions of low-paid workers have benefited from better pay and protection from exploitation. It’s now time for apprentices to benefit from these rights too.”
The Minimum Wage Apprentice Exemptions Review closes for submissions on Friday 8 August.