Should children be used to help fill labour shortages in Australia’s retail and hospitality industries?
The head of the Australian Retailers Association, Paul Zahra, seems to think so.
He says that tweens could be mobilised to help plug the gap of job vacancies, especially in the retail industry, where 40,000 workers are urgently needed Australia-wide.
“Agreeing to a national framework on young workers would help mobilise a willing and able cohort of people to help address the staffing shortfall,” Zahra told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“An ideal model would be one where we allow 13 to 15-year-olds to work, with sensible regulations in place around not working during school hours or at times that would impact a young person’s education.”
At present, the minimum age for casual or part time work varies from state to state.
In Victoria, it’s 15, with some exceptions for family businesses or the entertainment industry.
In Western Australia it’s 13 for part-time hospitality or retail work, as is the case in Queensland – though under-16s who are still in school need parental consent.
In New South Wales, there’s no minimum age requirement, though there are some restrictions on the type of work (and number of hours of work allowed).
Now, there are arguments for and against children entering the workforce so young.
On the one hand, it’s an opportunity to gain confidence and learn soft skills.
For example, in a LinkedIn post Staff Finder founder and Melbourne dad Ben Logan said his 15-year-old daughter “loves” earning $12 per hour in a trendy burger shop.
“She loves being part of the team, she takes pride in what she does and is eager to please her managers at every opportunity,” Logan wrote on LinkedIn.
“For her to have a casual job as a 15 year old is great for her as it forms part of her personal development and growth as a person. I’m sure this is the same for a lot of parents of teenagers as they see it as a chance for their children to grow as people as well.”
But on the other hand, it can leave children vulnerable to exploitation and distract them from learning during critical formative years.
And some parents like Logan object to the retail and hospitality industry capitalising on children to solve Australia’s current worker shortage.
“However, teenagers working certainly is not is a solution to the labour crisis!” Logan continued.
“To suggest that businesses should turn to children as young as 13 to help solve the labour crisis reeks of industries trying to reduce wage costs, with no real understanding of how to attract and retain people and with little or no thought of the actual CHILDREN who may fill some of these roles! This one is a joke!
“We do not live… in a country where we need to have our teenagers taking on the responsibility of supporting industries unable to understand how to attract and retain good staff! I’m sorry how dare anyone suggest that children as young as 13 should pick up the tab for government and bureaucratic office incompetence!”
We reckon he has a point.
Perhaps we should be letting kids be, you know… kids?