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Millions of students working their way through University could see their income fall as employers call for a freeze in the National Minimum Wage (NMW).
The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), which represents thousands of small to medium sized businesses across Britain, has also appealed to the government to re-introduce regional enterprise zones to help re-invigorate business and to cut the level of corporation tax that small businesses pay.
Fearing that increases in the NMW, currently set at £4.77 per hour for 18 to 21 year olds, will add to the jobless total David Frost, Director General of the British Chamber of Commerce, said: "Unless business is given the freedom and flexibility needed to survive and prosper, many more companies will go bust, and sadly, many more jobs will be lost."
The BCC is urging the government to maintain the NMW at its current level next year and until economic conditions have stabilised. With annual inflation, as measured by the Consumer Prices Index, currently running at 2.9%, however, freezing the NMW is effectively a wage cut for the low paid, many of which are students.
The BCC has calculated that a similar rise as last year’s increase in the NMW would cost UK business £300 million overall which may force some firms to cut staff, or go out of business altogether.
"We're not opposed to the minimum wage going up when employment is high and the economy is doing well, but when jobs are being lost daily and a recession is in full swing, it makes no sense to increase the NMW," said David Frost.
The National Minimum Wage (NMW) is normally set in March or April and applied from 1st October each year – the NMW from 1st October 2008 until 30th September 2009 is set at:
£5.73 per hour for workers aged 22 years and above
£4.77 per hour for workers aged 18-21 inclusive
£3.53 per hour for all workers under the age of 18, who are no longer of compulsory school age.