Survey of young workers should prompt rethink of child and youth employment standards

September 20, 2005

(Vancouver) A new study that surveyed public school students raises
concerns that BC’s employment regulations are leaving children and
youth without adequate protections in the workplace.

“For many young people, paid work is a positive experience,” says
Stephen McBride, lead author of the Canadian Centre for Policy
Alternatives study and a Professor of Political Science at Simon Fraser
University. “But the survey responses indicate that in many cases, the
regulations employers and parents are supposed to follow when hiring
young workers are being ignored.”

“The findings related to children aged 12 to 14 are of particular
concern,” says McBride. Of the surveyed 12 to 14 year-olds who have

  • 70% reported they worked without supervision some or all of the time;
  • Nearly half (48%) reported that their parents had not evaluated the health and safety of the workplace;
  • More than half (58%) reported that their employer did not receive written approval from their parents.

Yet current employment regulations, introduced by the provincial
government in 2003, require that children aged 12-14 be directly
supervised by an adult at all times, and that employers have the
written consent of one parent or guardian. According to the Ministry of
Labour and Citizens’ Services, the parent is responsible for ensuring
safe and appropriate working conditions for their child.

“The province’s rationale for changing BC’s child labour rules,
which used to require a permit from the Employment Standards Branch for
a child to be hired, was that the system wasn’t effective,” says
McBride. “But this study tells us that the new rules aren’t even being
followed, and that a significant number of children are being left
vulnerable to harm.”

The study also finds that BC provides significantly less protection
to child workers than other jurisdictions in Canada, the United States
and the European Union. In particular, allowing children as young as 12
to work with the permission of only one parent is contrary to the
International Labour Organization’s Convention on the Minimum Age.

In addition to questions about work age and conditions, the survey
asked respondents about the $6/hour “first job/entry level wage,”
commonly referred to as the “training wage”:

  • Nearly half of the employed youth had been paid less than the standard $8/hour minimum wage;
  • Of those, 31% reported that they had not received any
    training while on the job entry wage, and a further 29% reported they
    had been trained only at the start.

“If training were necessary, it might provide some justification for
paying a reduced wage,” says McBride. “But in practice, there is
clearly little need for training in most jobs students obtain. It goes
against the spirit of equal pay for work of equal value, and
discriminates against youth.”


Child and Youth Employment Standards: The Experience of Young
Workers Under BC’s New Policy Regime
is part of the Economic Security
Project, a joint research initiative of the CCPA and Simon Fraser
University, funded primarily by the Social Sciences and Humanities
Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).

Call Shannon Daub at 604-801-5121 x226 to arrange an interview.