Quebec kids as young as 12 are jumping into the workforce

Students who are working part-time are getting young and younger, and over the last 20 years, the rate of students who also work has nearly doubled in the province.

Percentage of students who also work has doubled in last 20 years, figures show

12-year-old Mathéo Déry said he enjoys the social aspect of working, especially during the pandemic. (Submitted by Caroline Perron)

Students who are working part-time are getting young and younger, with some children as young as 12 now entering Quebec's labour market.

Mathéo Déry, 12, said he watched his older brother and sisters start work, and wanted to try it as well.

"It's still a good experience and gets me some money. Obviously, at my age, I'm not working 32 hours a week, I'm doing short shifts — just enough to learn," he said.

Louis-Charles Chauvette, who is in his first year of high school, has been working as a cashier in a grocery store for the past two months. "I wanted some work experience," he said.

Both said they enjoy working and that, so far, it has been a positive experience. In Quebec, children under the age of 14 need to have written permission from their parents to work.

"Working with people, working with clients, I find it really fun to socialize, especially with the pandemic," said Déry.

They're not the only young people jumping into the workforce. Over the last 20 years, the rate of students who have jobs has nearly doubled in the province – from 21.5 per cent in 1997 to 40.5 per cent in 2018.

Louis-Charles Chauvette started working as a cashier in a grocery store recently, and likes how it's helping him build experience. (Radio-Canada)

Peggy Lapointe, the service co-ordinator for the Carrefour jeunesse emploi de Rouyn-Noranda, a youth employment program in the Abitibi region, says there are benefits to students starting work early.

Children can learn organizational skills, how to manage their spending, and gain an understanding of employee-employer relationships, for example, she said.

However, Lapointe also cautioned that with the labour shortage, employers have to curb how much work they give their youngest employees.

"You have to be careful, because a 12- or 13-year-old doesn't have the maturity to face some responsibilities," she said. "There are some who are super good, who do well, but you have to be aware that they're still at an age where they're developing, and shouldn't be overloaded."

Marie-Claude Lacombe, the development co-ordinator with Action Réussite Abitibi-Témiscamingue, which works to help students succeed academically, warned that work should not interfere with one's studies.

"Age is a risk factor, but also the number of working hours, I would say," she said, noting that over 15 hours a week could jeopardize young people's education.

"There could be a decrease in performance at school, but also at work. They'll experience more stress and fatigue. They'll do fewer social activities, and physical activity, too," she said. "The key, I would say, is to aim for balance."

For both Déry and Chauvette, balancing work and school hasn't become an issue yet.

"I don't really find it harder, because I don't work every weekend, every day. So that leaves me time for myself," Déry said.

Based on reporting by Radio-Canada