How young is too young to work?

The laws around when you can legally employ young people vary from state to state. HC looks at what you need to know.

How young is too young to work?
t of us had childhood jobs like delivering newspapers or pamphlets or helping our parents if they had a family business.

But the rules around how old children must be, when they can work and what kind of work they are allowed to do can vary from state to state.

International child labour standards set the minimum age for light work at 13 years and general employment at 15. The minimum age for hazardous work is 18, although it can be lowered to 16 under strict conditions.

Here, rules vary between states and territories. Generally the minimum age is 13, but there are conditions around the work young people can do. There is no minimum age for working in a family business or the entertainment industry.
  • ACT: There are limits on the types and hours of work allowed for people under the age of 15
  • NSW: There is no set age for when people can start working
  • NT: People under 15 cannot work between 10pm and 6am and work cannot affect education
  • QLD: People aged 11 and older can do supervised work delivering newspapers and similar material. Other work can be started at the age of 13 with a parent’s consent form
  • SA: There is no set working age, but there are limits on what jobs young people can do
  • TAS: There is no set working age, but there are limits on performing or selling things in public places
  • VIC:  Employers needs a child employment permit from the Victorian Government for workers under the age of 15
  • WA: People under 15 can work in certain jobs with restricted hours
Child employment laws internationally

New Zealand
There is no general minimum age for employment, but there are rules around the times young people can work and the types of work they can do.
  • People under the age of 16 cannot work before 6am or after 10pm
  • They are legally required to attend school and work must not prevent or interfere with school attendance
  • People under the age of 15 cannot work in a factory or place where things are being prepared or made for sale, on a construction site, in a forest where trees are being cut down or processed or in any area where the work being done is likely to harm the employee
  • People under the age of 15 are also not allowed to work or assist with work involving machinery, including powered tools and appliances
United Kingdom
The youngest age at which a child can work part time is 13, except for children involved in areas like television, theatre and modelling, who will require a performance licence.
Children who have reached the minimum school-leaving age can work up to 40 hours per week.

United States
The Fair Labour Standards Act (FLSA) sets 14 as the minimum age for most non-agricultural work, but young people of any age can deliver newspapers, perform in radio, television, movies, or theatrical productions or work in businesses owned by their parents, except in mining, manufacturing or hazardous jobs.
They can also babysit or perform minor chores around a private home or be employed as home-workers to gather evergreens and make evergreen wreaths.
Many stages have child labour laws, some of which may have a minimum age for employment which is higher than the FLSA. Where both the FLSA and state child labour laws apply, the higher minimum standard must be obeyed.
The Federal Government allows children under the age of 17 to be employed so long as the work is unlikely to endanger their health or safety and they are not allowed to work between the hours of 11pm and 6am. Provinces also have their own rules around youth employment.
Lowest employment ages internationally
Country Employment age
Sri Lanka 10
Ghana 12
Netherlands Antilles 12
Dominica 12
Jamaica 12
Trinidad and Tobago 12
Burma 13
Lebanon 13
Denmark 13
United Kingdom 13

Highest employment ages internationally
United Arab Emirates 21
Philippines 18
Marshall Islands 18
Taiwan 18
Malaysia 17
Cuba  17
China 16
France 16
Hungary 16
Sweden 16

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