Economics/Class Relations

Quebec puts kids to work to address labor shortage

The employment rate for minors exceeds 50% in Quebec, where there is no minimum age requirement to start working.

By Hélène Jouan (Montreal (Canada) correspondent)

In Quebec, there is no minimum age to work. Employers must obtain written authorization from the parents for minors under 14 years of age.

At an age when some children still play with Legos, Adrien dutifully stacks cans on a shelf. Every night, the young boy runs out of school to come to work in this supermarket on the north end of the island of Montreal. Working two hours every day after school makes for a busy schedule for this 12-year-old boy. At the cash registers of this same supermarket, very young adolescents like him help customers fill their bags. How many hours a week do they work, at what wages? The manager refuses to answer.

However, in theory, the employment of these minors is perfectly legal. In Quebec, there is no minimum age required to start working. The law on labor standards only lists a few restrictions: The employer must make sure to obtain the written authorization of the parents for minors under 14 years of age. Up to the age of 16, they may not work during school hours, and night shifts are prohibited.

In 2016, a survey conducted by the Institut de la Statistique du Québec found that one in three schoolchildren had a paid job during the school year. This is a very special situation, which makes Quebec, and Canada more generally, an exception among the members the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) when it comes to child labor.


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