Is work child’s play?

The recession, such as it is (technically it isn’t), is hitting children in all sorts of ways. I’ve just learned that pocket money has taken a hit: down from £6.24 per week in 2009 to £5.89pw this year.

Pocket money is like a welfare payment for teenagers. Obviously plenty of them are ‘on the double’ too, earning a few pennies to supplement their welfare income. But apparently the number of school children in part time employment has fallen dramatically. The BBC reports that the number of 13-15 year olds ‘licensed’ to work has fallen 40% since 2004. And the number of 16-17 year olds working part-time (alongside school) has fallen by half since 2005.

It’s unknown how many of these children have tried to find work. Is it the case that they are being overlooked, or are they simply choosing economic inactivity? Either way, it must have quite an impact on their standard of living.

I see consequences ahead. There is obviously an ongoing debate about the benefits and costs of children working. I favour it for older children. It certainly helped me appreciate earned income and taught me a great deal about the world of work. I worked in summer jobs, after-school jobs and weekend jobs in a range of sectors: retail, administration, delivery, oil, military, sales and construction.

I fear many more children will reach the age of work with much to learn about its value. But perhaps they will also learn to spend less on junk food and on consumption more generally. Looking ahead, that can only be A Good Thing for our profligate society. Meanwhile, many adults will be in need of work to support their families. Our economy should seek to meet this need first.

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