in primary school, every third child has a job. “No labor can be found”

Ici-Radio Canadapopular radio of Quebec, he dedicated a lengthy report to Amanda about ten days ago. Blond hair, blue eyes, Amanda working at the La Grande Gueule restaurant in Saint-Alphonse-de-Granby, a town of 3,000 inhabitants halfway between Montreal and Sherbrooke. She started out in the kitchen and worked with the fryer, one of the heaviest tasks, but she is doing well. The manager of the restaurant, Pascal Lamarche, is happy: “Currently he works six-hour shifts, I want to test his skills, it seems he is doing well”. Amanda is also happy, the salary satisfies her and also the work environment comes out well with the whole team. And above all, there were no problems with the school. He continues to have good grades in all subjects, no decline despite the restaurant changes. Because Amanda is in sixth grade, she is eleven years old.

Permanent position, why do young people reject it? “Old idea, we dream of liquid”

To work at Grande Gueule, he only needed a written permission from his parents, who had no qualms: “She is good, her grades remain high – her father Sylvain explained on the radio – if her academic performance were to be affected.” so he would stop working, we told him outright. ”Because in Quebec, working for minors, even very young people, right out of primary school, is legal. In fact, encouraged.

There is no minimum age for pay. It is a tradition, justified by the fact that in the end it is good: work teaches us to be autonomous, it is a learning like any other. It is a pity that the economic situation after the pandemic, with scarce labor, almost zero unemployment, an exhausted workforce, has led to an explosion of youth and even child labor in sectors previously reserved for the adult world. 51 percent are now minors with permanent jobs. Many are very young, like Amanda. Under 14 years of age, only parental permission is required to be employed. In 2016, a study by the Québec Institute of Statistics reported that one in three children in primary school had a regularly paid job during the year. A unique situation in the western world. “The deregulation of commercial business opening hours, which began in the 1990s, has caused the demand for part-time labor to explode,” Elise Ledoux, a professor of business economics at the University of Quebec in Montreal, told Le Monde – and very young school at lunchtime , they proved to be an ideal workforce ». Today, fast-food giants do not hesitate to publish ads also aimed at parents, ensuring that a job with them “will favor their children’s future careers”.

Among the places most coveted by children: restaurants, bars, but also supermarket checkouts. If the hyper-early entry into the world of work is part of Quebec’s history, the turning point in recent years has precisely been the change in the employment sectors of the very young. Before, elementary and middle school kids all earned something but by performing “jobs” that traditionally suited their age more, such as distributing newspapers or something babysitting. “What has changed – explained Canadian sociologist Charles Fleury – is that more and more young people are entering the official cycle of the labor market and occupying ‘real’ part-time jobs.” With everything that comes with it, even at the level of work accidents. A study by the online newspaper La Presse – also quoted by Le Monde – revealed in late April that 149 children under the age of 16 had been victims of work-related accidents by 2020, and many of these were not even 13 years old. This can no longer pass as a simple national tradition, a normal training ritual in the life of the Québec citizen. “I find it really shocking,” responded Suzanne Arpin, Vice-President of the Quebec Commission on Human Rights and Youth. The demand to introduce a minimum age for working in the state is becoming more and more insistent. In 2021, British Columbia decided it was time to put an end to legal youth work and raised the age of entry into the world of wage earners from 12 to 16. Ten days ago, the Quebec government also showed signs of slowing down. Labor Minister Jean Boulet acknowledged that “it is not very normal to see 11-year-old children working.”


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