Teens as young as 13 could soon be making coffees and packing groceries, as part of a proposal by the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) to fill gaps in labour shortages across the country.

Source: Australian Retailers Association calls for teens as young as 13 to be allowed to work to address labour shortage | 7NEWS

and here in the United States:

I began working at age 10, doing watering, weeding, raking leaves and sometimes mowing lawns for neighbors.

Today, that would be illegal in my state. In fact, my state allows youth to work in some positions at age 14 but prohibits using power equipment such as lawn mowers until age 16. I was using power lawn mowers by the age of 12.

Kids working, usually on their parent’s own farm may pick berries or beans or some other hand harvested crops from age 9-11, but may not use power equipment.

In my state you need to be at least 16 to perform most kitchen work in a restaurant. When I was young, my 14-year-old friend got his first job working in a fast-food restaurant kitchen on the French fry stove. There are enough restrictions that it is easier to only hire those age 16 or 18 or above.

Gradually over the years, more restrictions were put in place – it’s as if there was a surplus of younger workers in the demographic pipeline at the time … Now that the situation is reversed, we see talk of removing these age restrictions.

It looks like these labor laws were never about safety but about controlling supply versus demand!

Afterward – should teens work part time after school or summer jobs?

I grew up with an expectation from my Mom that I would start work as soon as possible. She came from the Great Depression era and viewed work as instilling a strong work ethic. I was told I needed to work to pay for future college education. I was required to save at least half of everything I earned in a bank account for future college expenses. I saved almost everything I earned. (Ultimately, I paid 100% of my own undergraduate tuition, fees and books, and received help from my parents for two years of housing at university – see footnote).

Working, though, meant foregoing other life experiences at the time. I never dated. I never went to a party in high school. I grew up with no social life and to this day have few social contacts.

Additionally, the pay at this age was minimal. From age 10-14 I was raking, trimming, and mowing local neighbor’s lawns for $3 to $4 each (using push mowers or electric mowers). That was about $1.50 to $2.00 per hour. By age 15 I worked part time in a retail store making about $2.30 per hour.

Does it make sense to spend lots of hours as a minimally skilled young person earning a minimal wage to save for college?

I no longer think so.

Our three kids did not hold substantial jobs (occasionally they shoveled snow or watered a lawn of a neighbor while gone) as teens. Instead, they concentrated on schoolwork and school activities (including band and after school sports). They earned good academic scholarships to college. In fact, the value of these scholarships was far greater than what they would have earned at minimum wage jobs!

Thus, it made more sense for them not to work – than to work at minimum wage, low skilled jobs.

Should your child work after school or summer jobs? I cannot answer that for you, but you need to have a big picture view. As in our example, it made far more sense for our kids not to work than to have worked.

Footnote

I missed about two years of K-12 education due to a skull fracture, and a separate year of prolonged illness (Strep A, influenza, and pneumonia) that had me miss substantial parts of 9th grade and succumbing to pressure to leave high school one year early and go straight to college. I never graduated from high school although I do have a B.S. CS, MBA and M.S. degree in engineering!

By EdwardM

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