Why be a school age worker?
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Why be a school age worker? book
If the paid employment of children in Britain today is indisputable, its purpose is far less clear. While survey after survey has consistently produced ‘overwhelming evidence that employment is a majority experience for children’ (Hobbs et al. 1996: 16, original emphasis), less certainty exists over why it is exactly that children become school age workers. One reason for this omission has been the necessity of producing credible base-line data on rates and types of employment, particularly given sustained hostility from successive governments to the idea that children’s work amounts to anything more than a few hours for easy pocket money. A further reason has been the assumption that children’s work is significant primarily in terms of its developmental implications. The considerable interest in the United States in what is termed ‘adolescent working’, for instance (see Hansen et al. in this volume for an excellent review), tends to view school age employment as an index of psychological adjustment and/or a role-rehearsal in children’s socialisation into normative patterns of working. Thus questions of work’s significance to the immediate are marginalised in favour of an assessment of the costs and benefits of working to children’s transitions into the well-adjusted workers of tomorrow.