Youth minimum wage reform and the labour market in New Zealand
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This paper analyses the effects of a large reform in the minimum wages affecting youth workers in New Zealand since 2001. Prior to this reform, a youth minimum wage, applying to 16-19 year-olds, was set at 60% of the adult minimum. The reform had two components. First, it lowered the eligible age for the adult minimum wage from 20 to 18 years, and resulted in a 69% increase in the minimum wage for 18 and 19 year-olds. Second, the reform raised the youth minimum wage in two annual steps from 60% to 80% of the adult minimum, and resulted in a 41% increase in the minimum wage for 16 and 17 year-olds over a two-year period. We estimate the impact of this reform by comparing average outcomes for these two groups of teenagers, before and after the change, to those for 20-25 year-olds, who were unaffected by the reform. We find no evidence of adverse effects on youth employment immediately following the reform, but some weak evidence of employment loss by 2003. We also find evidence of a 10-20% increase in hours worked following the reform for employed 16-17 year-olds, and up to a 10% increase for employed 18-19 year-olds. depending on the specification adopted. Combined, wage, hours, and employment changes lead to significant increases in tabour earnings and total income of teenagers relative to young adults. However, we also find evidence of a decline in educational enrolment, and an increase in unemployment, inactivity, and benefit receipt rates, suggesting that while the minimum wage reform increased the labour supply of teenagers, this increase was not matched by as large an increase in employment. (c) 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.