Letter: Child workers are already doing too much too young

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The Independent Online
NEAL ASCHERSON's article 'Girls and boys come out to work' (31 October) heralded the possibility that 'child labour may be round the corner'.

It may be closer than he realised. According to the Low Pay Unit (The Hidden Army: Children at Work in the 1990s), 43 per cent of children between the ages of 10 and 16 already have a job - 74 per cent of which are illegal. A quarter of them earn less than pounds 1 an hour, and half work either before 7am or after 7pm. Small wonder that more than a third suffer accidents at work (including cuts, burns and broken bones).

Mr Ascherson doesn't look at what might happen if, instead of children, adults were properly trained and properly paid for their labour, and children provided instead with purposeful leisure and social education programmes through a properly funded youth service. But perhaps that is what he alluded to in his comments about the need for 'another economy' and one that could afford to support its younger generation rather than depending on it for its skimpy existence.

Janet Paraskeva

Director, National Youth Agency