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Tuesday, February 10, 1998 Published at 23:52 GMT


Children earn pittance, says survey
image: [ One thousand schoolchildren in the north-east of England took part in the survey ]
One thousand schoolchildren in the north-east of England took part in the survey

Children are working for as little as 33p (54¢) an hour and for up to 29 hours a week, while many are getting hurt and working illegally, according to a new survey published on Wednesday.

The findings were uncovered in a study for the Low Pay Unit of more than 1,000 children in the north-east of England.

The unit is backing a backbench Parliamentary Bill, promoted by the Labour MP and former Low Pay Unit director, Chris Pond, which is being debated at second reading in the Commons on Friday.

More details of the survey will be given at a Westminster briefing on Wednesday.

The survey's findings included:

  • 25% were under the legal working age of 13
  • 44% had suffered injury at work in the last year
  • One in 10 injuries was serious enough to need treatment
  • The average working week was eight hours, but one in seven worked over 12 hours a week - the limit proposed in Mr Pond's Bill
  • One girl worked in a cafe for 29 hours a week
  • More than 40% reported feeling tired due to their work.

Previous research suggests that up to two million school-age children in the UK have some form of employment and that three-quarters work illegally.

The Director of the Low Pay Unit, Bharti Patel, said that Mr Pond's Employment of Children Bill paved the way for the first national legislation on the issue since 1933.

"It will increase protection for children by limiting working hours to 12 a week during term time, bringing us into line with the rest of Europe," he said.

"The introduction of consistent national regulations and more effective enforcement will be welcomed by those working in the field of child protection."

Mr Pond said the bill has been backed by more than 160 MPs and has won the government's support in principle.


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