NUMBERS GAME: Young workers

By Hugh Perry

| 26 February 2003

Teenagers as young as 14 are being exploited by their employers and are carrying out duties far beyond the light work expected of underage employees.

Whether from peer pressure to buy the latest clothes and PS2 games or from a genuine need to support themselves, young people are slogging away at a wide spectrum of jobs.

Unison carried out a survey with nearly 1,700 young people aged 13 to 21. It revealed that nearly two-thirds were working at regular part-time jobs, but it also showed that some young people are doing more than they should.

These include a 14-year-old who helped to fit doors and windows for a double-glazing firm and a 15-year-old who cleaned at a supermarket.

Chris Fabby, Unison's youth officer, said: "School-aged workers are no longer just supplementing their pocket money with a few hours of babysitting or delivering papers. Our survey found students as young as 15 and 16 working long hours in responsible jobs."

The union's position is that young workers doing full jobs should be paid the full national minimum wage, which currently does not cover workers under 18 and provides a lower rate for 18 to 21-year-olds.

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