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In the absence of manpower, Québec puts minors to work

In the Canadian province of Quebec, there is no minimum age to work. Only a written authorization from the parents of minors 14 is required and it is prohibited to carry out professional activity only during the period of the day when children and adolescents up to 16 years are in school. The rate of minors working in Québec is 51%.

In an interview with the French newspaper Le Monde, the professor who specializes in labor issues at University of Québec Elise Ledoux comments that, since the end of the years 1990, the deregulation of opening hours of the shops has exploded the need for part-time labor in the region. “School-age children, released from their classes in the early afternoon, have become an ideal workforce”, he explains.

The problem is that, in recent years, children and adolescents they stopped doing age-appropriate jobs and began to perform functions normally occupied by adults, even filling their vacancies for a lower salary. As revealed by the Canadian newspaper La Presse, in 2020 about 150 minors, up to 16 ) years, suffered work accidents in the region.

What the law says

According to Québec legislation, minors cannot work in services that compromise their education or that develop mental health risks. In addition, until 16 years old, students must stay part-time of the day attending classes. After that age, they are released from school commitment.

Between 23h and 6am, young people should not be in the service unless they work with delivering newspapers, taking care of children as babysitters, participating in artistic performances or working in leisure establishments that require teenagers to sleep on site. In this case, going to school the next day is not mandatory.

Risk of truancy

The loophole in the law, which allows the student missing classes for having worked the night before, and the possibility of not studying to focus on the service from the 16 age onwards creates a concern among specialists: the Québec system is encouraging truancy?

In an interview with Radio Canada, a teacher says that, when asking students if school is plan A, B, C or D in their lives, one of the students answered : “It’s my plan C”.

According to an official survey on the health of young people in Québec, students who have a professional activity of more than 11 hours per week present a higher level of psychological stress than those who work less or have no job.

According to a lawyer specializing in the area, Sarah Dennene, the description in the law about “not having a disproportionate job to the development of the minor is very vague” and needs a reform. “We have a system designed for adults and children have specific needs. It is necessary to protect minors.”

Last month, the Quebec labor minister, Jean Boulet, admitted that “it is not normal for children of 11 years to be working”. But so far, no initiative has been taken in the Canadian province.

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