Preteens, young teens are working and getting injured

In brief

  • Preteens and young teenagers are active in the labour market, and are being exposed to the health and safety risks that exist in most workplaces.
  • Formal systems for tracking their employment patterns and health and safety on the job should be developed.

Published: January 2008

Why was this study done?

No official statistics are kept on the employment of 12- to 14-year olds in Canada. This study aimed to discover more about working patterns and job injury rates among this age group.

How was the study done?

Researchers obtained information from two school-based surveys — one in Ontario in 2003 and another in British Columbia (B.C.) in 2005. Both surveys asked students in grades 7 to 12 if they worked for pay during the school year and, if so, in what type of work. Those who reported working were asked if they had been hurt seriously enough on the job to require treatment by a doctor or nurse. Only responses of students aged 12 to 14 years were included in the results: 1,318 students in Ontario and 2,788 in B.C.

What did the researchers find?

More than half (53 per cent) of 12- to 14-year olds in Ontario reported working during the school year. Among them, about 13 per cent worked in formal work settings such as food operations, stores, offices, construction and landscaping (as opposed to odd jobs such as babysitting, newspaper delivery or work in the recreation or entertainment industry). In B.C., 40 per cent of young adolescents reported working during the school year, and 12 per cent were in formal work settings. Some other key findings:

  • the average number of hours worked per week: 8.3 (Ontario): 8.8 (B.C.).
  • the average number of hours per week for those engaged in formal work: 9.2 hours (Ontario); 11.6 (B.C.)
  • reported work injuries: six per cent (Ontario); 3.5 per cent (B.C.)
  • reported work injuries among those doing formal work: almost nine per cent (Ontario); 5.5 per cent (B.C.) 

These rates are comparable to those already estimated for 15- to 24-year olds.

What are some strengths and weaknesses of the study?

This study provides rarely documented information on the employment patterns and work injury experiences of 12- to 14-year old Canadians. However, making comparisons between the two provinces was difficult because findings were drawn from two different types of surveys.