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Disability payments for child workers hit all-time high last year: report

WorkSafeBC is spending significantly more on disability payments for young workers than it did ten years ago, despite the fact that the number of injury claims has gone down.

According to a report on child labour released today, Child Labour Is No Accident: The Experience of BC's Working Children, payment regarding disability claims went up to $600,735 last year from $25,967 in 2003. That adds up to more than a million dollars in work-related disability claims young workers ages 12 to 14 since 2003.

Helesia Luke, a collaborator for the group that prepared the report, says this suggests the severity of injuries has increased. Luke says this is the direct result of a bill the Liberal government introduced eliminating requirements for employees hiring children between 12 and 14.

"I think the story that's emerging is the outcome of the government reducing young worker's requirements in 2003," she said.

The report shows not only the results of a study of data provided by WorkSafeBC, but also of interviews with 129 young workers. First Call BC, the child and youth advocacy group that prepared the report, found that almost half of the workers interviewed said they were injured while working.

The report also found that 60 per cent of the youth interviewed for the study started working at 14 or under, but only 24 per cent reported to have a written permission from their parents, a requirement to start working. Most of the young workers interviewed worked in food services and accommodation.

Child Labour Is No Accident describes dropping out of school, missing classes because of work, and not having enough time to do homework as negative impacts too much work has in youth.

Luke highlighted the decentralized nature of the study that made focus groups in six different locations.

"We managed to go all over B.C.," she said. "Problems in northern B.C. are very different than in the metro area."

First Call BC has came up with a series of recommendations -- including restrictions on the hours a youth is allowed to work, better support for families to prevent child labour, and a review of what other provinces are doing -- in order to come up with more specific set of rules regarding working children.

Carlos Tello is completing a practicum with The Tyee.

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