Friday, February 3, 2012

Child labour in BC

A new project has been launched to examine the impact of loosening BC's child labour laws (back in 2003). BC's child labour laws were relaxed to offload responsibility to parents, according to the government, because the laws were hard to enforce (insert sound of my head exploding).

Not surprisingly, injuries to young workers have increased significantly since that time. In fact, there was a tenfold increase in the number of reported workplace injuries by children 12-14 during the first five years after this change. It is unclear whether this is a reporting effect or an actual change, but my guess is that when you loosen the rules, hazard exposure will increase, thus driving greater injury.

The BC government has declined to alter its approach despite the upswing in child injury. Loosening the rules also has the effect of making child labour invisible as the government has no idea where children are being employed. This is politically convenient ("child labour? I don't see no child labour") but seems contrary to the basic principle that we ought to protect children from harm.

-- Bob Barnetson

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