The rise in occupational injuries among young people aged 14 and under in Quebec is a growing concern, with the number of workplace accidents increasing by seven times since 2017. In 2022 alone, 74 work accident claims involving children aged 14 and under were accepted, representing a 640% increase over five years. For Park-Extension parents the news is particularly distressing since the figures also show that if we include young people aged 15 and 16, there were 501 occupational injuries in a single year, an 80% increase since 2017.
The most incidents were reported in the retail, accommodation, and catering sectors. Experts have noted that the shortage of personnel is a contributing factor to the growing presence of adolescents in the labor market and ultimately to the increase in accidents among them. Furthermore, a Léger survey revels that three teenagers out of 10 are juggling work and studies.
To address this concerning trend, Minister Jean Boulet has emphasized the importance of better regulating the place of young people in the workplace. The Minister of Labor has proposed legislation that sets the minimum age for working at 14 in Quebec and limits the workweek for young people aged 16 and under to 17 hours during the school year. There is no exception for the restaurant and retail sectors.
The bill has been met with mixed reactions, with some employers calling for certain relaxing of thee rules, particularly regarding the employment of young people under 14 during school holidays. However, the president of the Retail Council of Canada has reminded the government that the labor shortage must also be addressed.
Jean Boulet has stressed that the safety of young people and their educational success are his top priorities. While the bill could be improved, the Minister is guided by these two essential objectives. With proper regulation and supervision, it is possible to protect the safety of young workers while ensuring that they continue to succeed in their studies. It is essential that employers prioritize the safety and well-being of young people in the workplace and work with the government to create a safer working environment for all.