Youth employment laws questioned

October 06, 2005, vol. 34, no. 3
By Carol Thorbes

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A study by political science professor Stephen McBride raises questions about the effectiveness of new employment regulations in protecting young people in the workplace.

Under the new regulations, which allow employers to hire young people who are 12 years old, certain conditions have to be met. For example, an adult must directly supervise employees aged 12 to 14 at all times; one parent or guardian must consent to an employer hiring a young person, aged 14 or under.

McBride's study notes that several conditions are regularly violated, leaving child workers less protected in B.C. than in other Canadian jurisdictions.

“The province's rationale for changing B.C.'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 raises serious doubts about whether the new rules are even being followed and tells us that a significant number of children are being left vulnerable to harm.”

McBride, the lead author of this Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) study, based his findings on the results of a survey of public school students. “The findings related to children aged 12 to 14 are of particular concern,” says McBride. Among the findings:

• 70 per cent reported they worked without supervision some or all of the time;

• Nearly half (48 per cent) reported that their parents had not evaluated the health and safety of the workplace;

• More than half (58 per cent) reported that their employer did not receive written approval from their parents.

McBride's study, Child and Youth Employment Standards: The Experience of Young Workers Under B.C.'s New Policy Regime, also indicates that employers are often not paying youth fairly.

Nearly half of the employed youth in the survey had been paid less than the standard $8/hour minimum wage. Of those, 31 per cent reported that they had not received any training while receiving their entry-level wage of $6/hour. The need for training justifies paying a lower wage. Another 29 per cent said that they had only been trained at the start.

The study is part of the economic security project, a joint research initiative of the CCPA and SFU. Download the study at

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