Working children, obstacle or springboard to their development?

Children at work, obstacle or springboard to their development?

According to the 2016-2017 Quebec Health Survey of High School Youth, the risk of dropping out of school is significantly higher among young people who are employed.

In Quebec, there is no minimum age to enter the labor market. Only children under the age of 14 need written authorization from parents to take up employment, according to the Commission des normes de l’ equité de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST). Although there are certain advantages to seeing a child become a salaried employee, some experts are concerned about the psychosocial development of these young workers.

For pediatrician Dr Gilles Julien, it is difficult to say what is the ideal age to start working.

“There is no consensus, because it depends on each child. If he is mature and well supervised, it can be positive to work early. But you have to be careful because it is full of nuances among young people, there is good and bad, ”says Dr Julien.

“We saw several teenagers during the pandemic who were bored in front of their screens and the fact of finding a little job at Rona or McDonald’s, a few hours a week, is not in itself a bad deal. The problem is the lack of supervision,” he said.

Indeed, some ill-intentioned or ill-equipped employers can become major sources of stress for the child, and thus slow down their development.

“I have seen children who have been yelled at because they did not want to work more than 12 hours a week or on weekends. You cannot consider children as adults, even in the workplace,” claims Dr. Gilles Julien.

He should have mandatory training, both for employers and for young people. Employers must be aware of children's rights.

Dr Gilles Julien, pediatrician

Quebec survey on the health of young people in high school 2016-2017< br>
Among students with a job during the school year, those working 11 to 15 hours a week and those working 16 hours or more are, proportionally, more likely to present a high level of psychological distress than those devoting less than 11 hours a week at their job (34% and 37% versus 29%).

Table 4.5

From workers to dropouts?

According to the Quebec Health Survey of High School Youth in 2016-2017 , we observe that the risk of dropping out of school is significantly higher among young people who are employed. The proportion of students at risk of dropping out is 14% among those who work less than 11 hours, and climbs to 31% among those who work more than 16 hours weekly, according to the same survey.

“It can pave the way to dropping out of school, but it can also undermine the quality of their results,” says the national representative of the union United Food and Commercial Workers Canada (UFCW), Roxane Larouche.

Dr. Julien believes that the link between work and dropping out of school affects young people aged 15 to 17 the most.

“There are a lot of young people who don’t like school and who end up making money. It's a new path for them, they discover autonomy, and it's very rewarding. The problem is that sometimes they don't see the long-term repercussions,” he adds.

The pediatrician believes that adolescents who decide to embark on a workplace should be able to count on a mentor.

“You have to be there for them. It is important to explain to them the reality of the market and to make sure that they understand the consequences of their choice,” he concludes.

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