One in ten school kids play truant to work

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date: Thursday 29 March 2001

embargo: Note this is an amendment to the release embargoed for Wednesday 28 March 2001

Attention: forward planning, news, social affairs, industrial and education correspondents

New TUC research out today (Wednesday) reveals worrying statistics suggesting that over 100,000 schoolchildren admit to playing truant in order to do paid work.

Class struggles, a survey of 2,500 schoolchildren in England and Wales, also reveals that many children are working longer hours than they are legally allowed to. Although no-one under 16 is allowed to work before 7am or after 7pm, almost half (45%) the working children questioned said they worked after eight at night, and 23% said they worked before six in the morning.

The survey shows one in four under 13s say they do paid work - 289,000. Only what the law calls ‘light work’ such as babysitting and short paper rounds is legal. The MORI survey of 2,500 schoolchildren shows that illegal school age working has not declined since the last TUC survey four years ago, despite the introduction of the European Young Workers Directive, designed to tighten working time and ensure paid work did not have a negative impact on students’ school work.

The 2001 survey shows:

  • one in ten children admitted to playing truant in order to do paid work. Boys are more likely to skive off school for this reason than girls (12% as opposed to 5%).
  • one in four children (25%) under 13 admit to doing paid work either during term time or in the summer holidays. Just over a third of schoolchildren (36%) do some kind of paid work. The older children are, the more likely they are to have a job. Almost half (44%) 15 and 16 year olds are working.
  • children are also working illegal hours. Although, according to the European Young Workers Directive, no-one under 16 is allowed to work before 6am or after 8pm, almost a quarter (23%) have worked before 6am. 45% said they worked after 8pm - although a significant number of these would be babysitting, which is not illegal.
  • term-time working negatively affects a significant proportion of schoolchildren - 29% of respondents said they often or sometimes felt too tired to do homework or school work.
  • the most common jobs are baby-sitting (37%) and paper rounds (35%), followed by cleaning (19%) and working in a shop (16%). Girls are most likely to have jobs as baby-sitters and boys are most likely to have paper rounds.
  • although one in ten (11%) schoolchildren say they earn more than £5 an hour, most are paid much less. Around a third (31.5%) earn £2.50 an hour or less. Nearly one in five (17%) of those working in term time get less than £2 an hour.

Although not all of the European Young Workers Directive has been brought into force, some key parts 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.

According to the TUC poll, 30% or 320,286 children with term time jobs said they did more than two hours a day. One in ten reported working more than five hours a day.

Local authorities have responsibility for enforcing these rights, but the TUC believes councils are not doing their jobs properly. The TUC would like to see more spot checks in workplaces to ensure unscrupulous employers are not taking advantage of schoolchildren.

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.'

Notes to Editors:

The MORI poll is based on 2,475 interviews with children aged between 11 and 16 in maintained schools in England and Wales. Interviews took place between 15 January and 2 March 2001. Figures are based on numbers of 11-16 year old pupils in maintained schools in England and Wales. The figure of 100,000 is reached because a third of children aged 11-16 work (one million out of a total of three million). Ten per cent of the children who worked admitted missing school because of their jobs, hence the 100,000 figure.

Class struggles is available.

All TUC press releases can be found at www.tuc.org.uk

Contacts:

Media enquiries: Stephanie Power 020 7467 1310 email spower@tuc.org.uk

Liz Chinchen 020 7467 1248 or 07699 744115 (pager) email lchinchen@tuc.org.uk

Other enquiries:

The regional picture

All statistics are divided into Government Office Region. A full list of the towns, cities and boroughs these regions cover is available.

job types - children working during term time

term time job type

national

London

South East

South West

North East

North West

baby sitting

38%

49%

43%

27%

34%

45%

cleaning

14%

13%

18%

8%

5%

21%

office work

5%

13%

7%

6%

-

3%

factory work

2%

1%

-

-

-

3%

farm work

4%

-

7%

4%

-

6%

gardening

8%

8%

8%

5%

5%

8%

milk round

3%

-

5%

1%

-

2%

paper round

39%

23%

33%

25%

33%

51%

shop work

15%

19%

16%

20%

11%

16%

market stall

4%

3%

5%

5%

-

6%

catering

13%

6%

21%

23%

14%

13%

other

22%

40%

24%

17%

50%

12%

not stated

4%

-

3%

5%

-

2%

base: all those with a term-time job

job type

national

Eastern

East Midlands

West Midlands

Yorkshire

Wales

baby sitting

38%

30%

44%

28%

38%

38%

cleaning

14%

7%

17%

19%

10%

16%

office work

5%

3%

4%

2%

6%

11%

factory work

2%

2%

3%

-

1%

5%

farm work

4%

4%

1%

1%

4%

3%

gardening

8%

9%

3%

15%

2%

10%

milk round

3%

4%

1%

-

3%

6%

paper round

39%

51%

41%

60%

33%

32%

shop work

15%

15%

11%

11%

13%

19%

market stall

4%

4%

4%

3%

1%

-

catering

13%

10%

11%

5%

9%

9%

other

21%

22%

14%

12%

25%

15%

not stated

4%

3%

4%

4%

5%

21%

base: all those with a term-time job

national

London

south east

south west

north east

north west

% of children working during term-time

22%

18%

23%

24%

10%

19%

% of children working in last summer holidays

20%

17%

17%

25%

14%

16%

% children working before 6am

23%

22%

22%

27%

23%

20%

% children working after 8pm

45%

43%

47%

48%

46%

49%

% of children who were often or sometimes too tired to do homework or schoolwork because of job

29%

14%

27%

28%

22%

36%

% of children playing truant to do job

10%

11%

6%

13%

7%

9%

national

eastern

east mids

west mids

yorks

wales

% of children working during term-time

22%

31%

24%

21%

25%

26%

% of children working in last summer holidays

20%

22%

23%

19%

20%

29%

% children working before 6am

23%

29%

16%

23%

26%

20%

% children working after 8pm

45%

43%

42%

33%

45%

54%

% of children who were often or sometimes too tired to do homework or schoolwork because of job

29%

24%

39%

23%

32%

46%

% of children playing truant to do job

10%

5%

14%

15%

9%

4%

base: except for points one and two, all those with a term-time or summertime job.

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