New law could force Spanish teenagers to do their chores

Madrid

Spanish teenagers fond of shirking from doing the dishes or mowing the lawn may soon start to think twice about avoiding irksome household chores after a new draft law says that they will be legally obliged to help with family domestic duties.

No penalties, legal or otherwise, will be established for those under-18s who fail to follow the new legislation. But the new Child Protection Bill nonetheless states that children under 18 will have a joint responsibility to help at home and maintain the upkeep of the family residence “in accordance with their age and regardless of their gender”.

Perhaps in a nod towards Mums and Dads fed up with teenagers overly fond of shutting themselves in their bedrooms for hours, it also insists that Spanish youth participate actively in their family’s life “showing respect for their parents and siblings” as well as “any other relatives or people with a stable relationship with the core family unit”.

The number of local dogs discovered to have mysteriously consumed lazy scholars’ homework may well plummet in Spanish education too, with the new draft laws stating pupils should respect their teachers, study as required and follow school rules. The law also states that Spain’s youth should take a responsible attitude towards public property and the environment.

Traditionally a country with closely knit family units, reactions to the draft law appear to be mixed, with a poll on the Huffington Post website drawing almost equal votes  - roughly 45 percent each - in favour and against.

“I think it’s a good idea for kids to be aware of their responsibilities as well as their rights, but this law maybe is a bit too heavy-handed in the opposite direction,” Roberta Megias, a Spanish working mother with two young children, told The Independent.

“It’s something that families should handle and children should know about without having to be told to do it.”

While young Spaniards may have to mind their ps and qs a little more carefully from now on, another concern of young people here - the job market - deepened yesterday, when latest figures showed the percentage of youth unemployment had started to rise again, to just over 55 percent. Spain’s percentage of the young population quitting formal education between the ages of 18 and 24 remains the highest in Europe, too - 23.5 percent as opposed to the EU average of 11.9 per percent.

The new law’s insistence on youthful responsibilities also brings in sweeping improvements of the rights and protection of minors in Spain, giving them first-time equal status as victims of domestic gender violence between parents.

The law also ensures all applicants for jobs with children have to provide a copy of their criminal record, and establishes a list of convicted paedophiles to ensure they are barred from working with children. Adopted minors will also have the right to know the identities of  their biological parents, which are to be kept on record for at least 50 years.

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