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Working paper

Youth Minimum Wage Reform and the Labour Market (WP 04/03)

Issue date: 
Monday, 1 March 2004
View point: 
Publication category: 
JEL classification: 
J22 - Time Allocation and Labor Supply
J23 - Labor Demand
J24 - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
J38 - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs: Public Policy

Formats and related files

This paper analyses the effects of a large reform in the minimum wages affecting youth workers in New Zealand since 2001.


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 percent 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 percent increase in the minimum wage for 16 and 17 year-olds over a two-year period. We use data from the New Zealand Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS) to estimate the impact of these changes on a variety of labour market and related outcomes. We compare the average outcomes of these two groups of teenagers, before and after the policy reform, to those of 20-25 year-olds, who were unaffected by the reform. We find no robust evidence of adverse effects on youth employment or hours worked. In fact, we find stronger evidence of positive employment responses to the changes for both groups of teenagers, and that 16-17 year-olds increased their hours worked by 10-15 percent following the minimum wage changes. Given the absence of any adverse employment effects, we find significant increases in labour earnings and total income of teenagers relative to young adults. However, we do find some evidence of a decline in educational enrolment, and an increase in unemployment and inactivity, although these results depend on the specification adopted.


We thank William Dillingham, Sid Durbin, Michael Hampl, Brian Johnson, Tracy Mears and Julian Wood for discussions surrounding the background to minimum wage legislation in New Zealand and comments on the paper, seminar audiences at Auckland University, the Australasian Labour Econometrics Workshop, IZA/SOLE Transatlantic Meeting of Labour Economists, Canterbury University, La Trobe University, the New Zealand Econometric Study Group, and Victoria University of Wellington for comments, and Annette Evans for formatting the paper. Access to the data used in this study was provided by Statistics New Zealand under conditions designed to give effect to the security and confidentiality provisions of the Statistics Act 1975. Any views expressed are the sole responsibility of the authors and do not purport to represent those of the New Zealand Department of Labour, the New Zealand Treasury, or Statistics New Zealand.


The views, opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this Working Paper are strictly those of the author(s). They do not necessarily reflect the views of the New Zealand Treasury. The New Zealand Treasury takes no responsibility for any errors or omissions in, or for the correctness of, the information contained in this Working Paper. The paper is presented not as policy, but to inform and stimulate wider debate.

Last updated: 
Tuesday, 23 October 2007