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One in ten school kids play truant to work

28 March 2001 - TUC research suggests that more than 100,000 schoolchildren play truant in order to do paid work.

The MORI survey, entitled Class struggles, questioned 2,500 schoolchildren in England and Wales. It also revealed that many children work longer hours than the law allows. Children under 16 are not allowed to work earlier than 7am or later than 7pm, but 45% of working children questioned in the survey claimed to worked after 8pm. 23% of respondents said they worked before 6am.

1 in 4 children under 13 said they did paid work - extrapolated to the general population, this would amount to 289,000 under-13s. The law permits only 'light work', for example babysitting or short paper rounds. But illegal school age working has not shown any decline since a similar TUC survey was conducted four years ago. This is despite the European Young Workers Directive which was introduced to tighten working time and prevent paid work having a negative impact on students' school work.

According to the 2001 survey:

* 1 in 10 children played truant in order to do paid work. Boys (12%) were much more likely to do so than girls (5%).

* 25% of under-13s admit did paid work in term time or during the summer holidays. Altogether, 36% of schoolchildren do some kind of paid work - the likelihood increasing with age. By the time they are 15-16, 44% are working.

* The European Young Workers Directive bars anyone under 16 from work before 6am or after 8pm. But 23% of survey respondents had worked before 6am and 45% said they worked after 8pm - but many were babysitting, quite legally.

Term-time work had a significant negative effect with 29% of survey respondents saying they often or sometimes felt too tired to do homework or school work.

The jobs performed most commonly by schoolchildren were:

- baby-sitting (37%)
- paper rounds (35%)
- cleaning (19%)
- working in a shop (16%)

Girls are more likely to work as baby-sitters and boys major on paper rounds.

11% of schoolchildren said they earned over 5 an hour, but most get much less. 31.5% are on 2.50 an hour or less. And 17% of term time workers are paid less than 2 an hour.

Key parts of the European Young Workers Directive were introduced in June 2000, including:

* Children under 16 should not work more than two hours on a school day or 12 hours in any school week

* During school holidays, children under 15 cannot work more than 25 hours a week and 15 year olds have a limit of 35 hours.

But the TUC poll indicated that 30% of the sample (equivalent to 320,286 in the general population) claimed to work more than two hours a day in term time. And 1 in 10 said they worked more than five hours a day.

Local authorities should enforce the rights accorded by the European Young Workers Directive but this does not appear to be happening.

Commenting on the survey, TUC General Secretary, John Monks said: 'It's fine for kids to earn a bit of extra pocket money with a paper round or Saturday job. But it becomes a real problem if they are missing school and finding they can't keep up with school or homework.

'The law exists to make sure children aren't exploited and the TUC believes teenagers who work can gain a useful insight into working life. But in many cases, neither children or their parents, know what they are allowed to do - and it seems that many employers don't know the law either.'


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