Quebec divided on minimum working age, bill tabled to make it 14 years old

“With labour shortage, it's easy for teenagers now to get a job,” says Conseil du patronat du Quebec’s Denis Hamel. He hopes Quebec's move to set the minimum working age to 14 will push employers to create safer environments. Diona Macalinga reports.

Quebec is one of the few provinces that has no minimum working age and the government is looking to change that.

Quebec’s labour minister introduced a bill this week, setting the minimum age to 14 years old. Saying they want to protect Quebec children from work injuries, as well as the risk of dropping out of school.

They are also looking to limit working hours for those under 16 to 17 hours a week.

“With labour shortage, it’s easy for teenagers now to get a job, which is over the minimum wage. It can send the false impression that education is not useful because you can almost earn a very good salary without education,” said Denis Hamel, vice-president of workforce development policy at Conseil du patronat du Québec.

Bill 19 would ban people under the age of 14 from the workforce except for certain jobs, including newspaper delivery, babysitting, day camp monitoring or tutoring.

Quebec’s workplace health and safety board says between 2017 and 2021 the number of annual occupational injuries involving children aged 14 and under rose from 64 to 10.

“You don’t put a 14-year-old person on a machine that can be harmful if not operated properly. You need some expertise that should be kept for people with more experience,” said Hamel.

Hamel says rougher jobs must be managed by experienced labourers and that teenagers should focus instead on school to develop more skills.

“Employers, of course, will have to respect the law. But at the same time, they’ll probably have to go a little over what will be in the law. For example, if a teenager is if during an exam period or has to give homework. Well, an employer must understand that he will not call this person to come to work, because to always give the signal that education must be this priority,” said Hamel.

“School is already about 30-35 hours a week. So if you add these 17 hours to a school week, it’s a pretty long week of working.”

Teens already in the workforce that CityNews spoke to, had mixed thoughts on the government’s announcement.

“I do think working at a young age is a really good opportunity for a lot of kids, just to gain experience being in the workforce or just seeing how hard it is to get money, you know what I mean?” said Ivan David Jaraba Serrono, who started working at 16-years-old. “But at the same time, I wouldn’t want kids to stress too much about work because then they won’t be able to enjoy it outside of being a kid, basically.”

Simon Ditoma, who started working at 17, added, “Pros, getting more responsible. But the cons, you know, getting exploited by bosses, managers, because you’re not as experienced, you know, things that will happen when you’re very young in the workforce.”

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