Lisa Beech: our working children deserve better

A proposed law to improve the lot of our youngest and most vulnerable workers deserves support.

Parliament will this week debate whether working children aged 16 or younger should be regarded as employees rather than contractors, when Te Tai Tonga MP Rino Tirikatene’s private member’s bill is introduced on Wednesday.

Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand, the Catholic agency for justice, peace and development, strongly supports Mr Tirikatene’s Employment Relations (Protection of Young Workers) Amendment Bill.

In 2006, we interviewed 30 children aged 10-16 who delivered newspapers and advertising leaflets. Most made positive comments about their work, including enjoying the exercise, meeting people and earning money.

However, they also had concerns. Some had experienced unilateral cuts in their pay rates; others didn’t even know what their pay rates were as that section of their contract had been left blank. Some had to find their own replacements if they were sick or had a work accident.

Most were left to supply their own equipment, and sort out their own tax and ACC payments. Despite experiencing injuries ranging from near-miss road accidents to dog bites, they had to take care of their own health and safety.

Some did not know the name of the person or company they worked for, and in one case had never met their supervisor.

By contrast, a small group of children in our study enjoyed much better working conditions than the others. They had stable, clearly explained pay rates and regular pay days. They received bike and clothing allowances, as well as sick leave and holiday pay. Continue reading


Lisa Beech is the research and advocacy co-ordinator for Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand.

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