The new starting-out wage for teens is being labelled a backwards step and disrespectful to youth.
From April, a minimum wage of $10.80 will be introduced for 16 to 19-year-olds for the first six months of a job.
But James Sleep, from the youth sector of the Council of Trade Unions, says New Zealand shouldn't be racing to bring down wages.
He says it sends a poor message to young people.
"We need to value our next generation and creating an environment in this country that says that young people doing the same work as other people are valued less than older workers, is a pretty bad message.
"We should have policy that wraps around young people, says to them 'you deserve a job and you deserve a job that pays a decent living wage that allows you to pay for the necessities of life and participate in the community."
Mr Sleep says it's possible young people could find themselves out the door after six months of being on the starting-out wage.
He also says the pasture will look even greener in Australia.
"Currently 40,000 people every single year heading to Australia, this policy is going to add more numbers to that, as a young person going to Sydney could earn $20 as a cleaner as opposed to $10 here in New Zealand."
An Auckland amusement park says incentives other than lower wages are needed for businesses to employ young people.
Rainbow's End chief executive Chris Deere says there needs to be more emphasis on preparation, including reliability and suitability for the job.
"Our recruitment process is vital and the benefits of getting the right person sometimes can outweigh the cost of having to pay a bit more for that person."
Mr Deere says you can't take a blanket approach to it because it is a case-by-case decision by an employer.
Photo: NZ Herald