Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Public Health

Employment Patterns and Work Injury Experience among Canadian 12 to 14 Year Olds

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Public Health

Employment Patterns and Work Injury Experience among Canadian 12 to 14 Year Olds

Article excerpt


Background: Work participation is a common activity for young adolescents. Yet it may impact upon other aspects of their lives and their health. We sought to provide some of the first Canadian population-based estimates of 12 to 14 year olds' employment and work injury experiences, a group typically excluded from labour force statistics.

Methods: Secondary data analysis of school-based surveys in Ontario (ON) in 2003 and British Columbia (BC) in 2005. Questions provided information on participation in formal and informal work during the school year, number of hours worked, and the occurrence of a medically attended work injury for students 12 to 14 years old. Different sampling strategies were accounted for in the analyses, including the calculation of 95% confidence intervals (CI) on prevalence estimates.

Results: Overall, 52.9% (95% CI 48.7-57.1) of ON and 41.5% (39.7-43.3) of BC 12 to 14 year olds reported working during the school year. Mean hours per week ranged from 3.3 (2.5-4.0) among Ontario 12 year olds engaged in non-formal work up to 11.7 (10.0-13.3) among British Columbia 14 year olds engaged in formal work. Work injuries were reported by 6% (4.0-8.9) of ON young workers and 3.5% (2.6-4.8) of BC workers.

Interpretation: Our findings point to the active presence of young adolescents in the labour market. Systematic approaches to active surveillance of work participation and work health and safety for young adolescents across Canada should be developed. Differences in work injury patterns by province may be worthy of further investigation.

Key words: Occupations; childhood; wounds and injuries

Even though US studies point to some 12 to 14 year olds working,1 there are no official statistics on Canadian 12 to 14 year olds' employment patterns. With regard to work injury, Canadian emergency department records have indicated that injuries attributed to work accounted for 28 per 10,000 cases among youth 10 to 15 years of age.2 However, even injuries that required medical attention short of emergency room care can have health consequences for youth.3,4

In recent years, there has been a trend in Canada towards fewer restrictions on formal employment for 12 to 14 year olds. In both British Columbia (BC) and Alberta, recent legislation places responsibility for deciding the nature and amount of work by 12 to 14 year olds on parents and the youth themselves.5 Raising concern about this deregulation, 22.2% of 12 to 14 year olds in BC reported no supervision while working.6 This lack of supervision occurs despite the new regulations in BC requiring the presence of an adult supervisor.

In this study, we conducted secondary data analyses of two school-based surveys in order to examine the types of employment and the prevalence of work injuries among 12 to 14 year old Canadians in Ontario (ON) and BC.


Ontario survey: Sample

We obtained data from the 2003 cycle of the Ontario Student Drug Use Survey, a repeated cross-sectional survey of ON students enrolled in grades 7 through 12.7 This survey research was approved by the ethics committee at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. The 2003 cycle employed a regionally stratified twostage cluster design (school, class) and surveyed 6,616 students from 126 schools between January and June 2003. The sample was allocated equally within grade level and proportionally within region. This sampling method therefore required weighting to produce prevalence estimates.7 The student completion rate of the questionnaire was 72%.

The current analyses were restricted to those aged 12 to 14 years of age who were asked the work and work injury items of the survey (n=1,397). Of this number, 79 students were ineligible due to missing data, leaving a total of 1,318 students for our analyses (i.e., those employed or not employed). Further, out of 718 students in the study sample who reported working, only 634 completed the item on work injury. …

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