Chapter 9 Work and income of children

Key statistics at a glance

  • In 2011, 23.1 per cent of 15–17 year olds enrolled in education, combined education and work. Primarily this employment was part-time.
    • The majority of children combining education and work received an income less than $199 per week reflecting the part-time or casual nature of their work.
    • The proportion of children who combined education and work was higher in the Newcastle and Lake Macquarie (37.3%) and Hunter Valley exc Newcastle (35.3%) areas of NSW.
    • In the Sydney area, a greater proportion of children combined education and work in Sutherland (32.4%) and Northern Beaches (29.0%).
  • In 2006, 5.8 per cent of children aged 5–14 years worked in the last 12 months.
    • The proportion of children who worked was lower in Sydney (5.4%) compared to the remainder of the state (6.6%).
  • Almost 4 per cent of 15–17 year olds were not engaged in education or work in 2011.
  • The proportion of children who were not in education and not employed varied by area across NSW and was much higher in the Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven (56.2%), Mid North Coast (55.1%) and Central Coast (68.4%) areas.
  • In 2011, the majority (85.1%) of 15–17 year olds who combined education and work had a weekly income of $1-$199.
  • Over a quarter (26.2%) of 15–17 year olds who had left school had no income.  Around a quarter (24.5%) had a weekly income of $1–$199, while the remaining 47.2 per cent earned $200 or more.

Introduction

This chapter considers the work and income of children. Information on parental income can be found in Chapter 8 Economic well-being of families.

The income of children may contribute either directly to the household income or indirectly by offsetting the use of other household income to purchase goods for the child.  For children who have left formal education and live independently, their employment and income are instrumental in determining their economic situation, health, housing, and behaviour (AIHW, 2009; Barnett, 2008; Heady & Verick, 2006; Shore, 1997).

In considering the data it is important to bear in mind that for some children work can be difficult to find. Several community and personal characteristics have been found to impact on whether children are engaged in work. Communities with a relative low median household income, in urban areas, with relatively high youth unemployment, and with lower proportions of adults working in a household generally have a lower proportion of children able to find work.

Work participation may be closely linked to the different availability of jobs in different areas. Labour markets for children are likely to be localised and work opportunities may be fewer in areas of greater disadvantage. Given children’s relative lack of mobility, those who live in more disadvantaged areas are less likely to work.

The information is provided as a resource for policy and research professionals working in both government and non-government settings who may or may not have detailed knowledge about children income and work. Since the purpose of reporting on this data is to help inform the development of policy and service delivery responses, a deficit approach is taken in preference to a strengths-based one. While deficit measures miss the positive aspects of children’s lives, such reporting is intended to assist policy makers to target their efforts at addressing both equity and efficiency concerns.

Young people’s employment

In January 2010 the minimum school leaving age in NSW was raised from 15 to 17 years of age. In effect, students must complete year 10 (generally around 15 years) and then have options for ‘participation’ including full-time paid employment[1].

The 2011 ABS Census of Population and Housing provides data on the work and income of young people aged 15 years and over. The statistics are based on self-reported responses to the ABS standard questions on income.

In 2011, about one-quarter (26.7%) of 15-17 year olds in NSW were in paid employment.  This group was comprised of about one in thirty (3.6%) who were engaged in employment only, and just under a quarter (23.1%) who were in both education and employment (Table A9.1) (XLSX 208.1KB).

Two-thirds of young people (69.4%) aged 15-17 years were in education and were not employed.  The remaining 3.9 per cent were in neither education nor work.

Combining education and work

In 2003, the NSW Commission for Children and Young People surveyed almost 11,000 school children in Years 7–10 from all school sectors to learn more about their experience of work (CCYP, 2005). A follow up study (2007) of school children in government schools found that children choose to work for a variety of reasons. While income is usually the primary driver, work provides opportunities to learn new knowledge and skills, meet other people and develop social networks, to be independent and more responsible, and to do things that are valued by others (CCYP 2009). However, for a minority of students combining work and school may be necessary to support their family or their continued study (Bird, 2009; Robinson, 1996).

The impact of the number of hours children work is one of the most common themes in research on work and children. High levels of casual or part-time employment can be problematic for young people (see for example, Boese & Scutella, 2006). The concern centres on whether working compromises children’s ability to participate in other activities, such as homework, socialising with friends and family and other leisure activities (Bachman & Schulenberg, 1993). Some research argues that adding extensive working hours on top of these activities may contribute to children experiencing stress (CCYP, 2005). However, working moderate hours may enhance children’s ability to engage in social activities and provide some income for leisure pursuits.

The Australian Census of Population and Housing provides the best source of data about the engagement of children aged 15–17 years in work and education. The June 2006 ABS Child Employment Survey (CES) provides data on children aged 5–14 years who had worked in the 12 months prior to the survey. The CES survey provides information about whether children worked, when they worked, where they worked, their reasons for working and their working arrangements.

In 2011, of the 257,074 15–17 year olds in NSW, the large majority (92.5%) were enrolled in education. Of these, 59,441 combined education and work (23.1% of all 15-17 year olds) (Table A9.1) (XLSX 208.1KB).

The proportion of children combining education and work increased with age, from 16.8 per cent of 15 year olds, to 27.7 per cent of 17 year olds.

The proportion of children who combined education and work varied across NSW. Outside of Sydney, a relatively high proportion of 15-17 year olds combined education and work in the Newcastle and Lake Macquarie (37.3%) and Hunter Valley excluding Newcastle (35.3%) areas, and relatively low proportion did so in the Illawarra (27.9%) and Central West (28.9%) areas (Figure 9.1) (Table A9.5) (XLSX 208.1KB).

 Figure 9.1: Proportion of children aged 15–17 years who combine employment and education, by areas outside of Sydney, NSW, 2011

Note: Percentages exclude those where information on employment status was unavailable.

Source: NSW Commission for Children and Young People calculations based on ABS 2011 Census of Population and Housing. (Table A9.5) (XLSX 208.1KB)

Within the Sydney area, a highest proportion of children who combined education and work was in Sutherland (32.4%) and the lowest proportion was in the South West (13.2%) (Figure 9.2) (Table A9.5) (XLSX 208.1KB).

Figure 9.2: Proportion of children aged 15–17 years who combine employment and education, by areas within Sydney, NSW, 2011

Note: Percentages exclude those where information on employment status was unavailable.

Source: NSW Commission for Children and Young People calculations based on ABS 2011 Census of Population and Housing. (Table A9.5) (XLSX 208.1KB)

The most recent employment data for children younger than 15 years comes from the 2006 ABS Child Employment Survey. This found that 51,800 children in NSW aged 5–14 years had worked in the last 12 months, or 5.8 per cent of the children in this age group.[2] Just over five per cent (5.4%) of the children aged 5–14 years living in Sydney had worked in the last 12 months compared with close to seven per cent (6.6%) of children living in the remainder of the NSW (Table A9.2 (XLSX 208.1KB)). Of all children aged 5–14 years who had worked in the last 12 months 7,700 (14.9%) had worked in the school holidays only, 15,400 (29.7%) had worked in school terms only and 28,700 (55.4%) had worked in both school holidays and school terms. (Table A9.3) (XLSX 208.1KB) (ABS, 2006a).

School leavers

Unemployment among early school-leavers can have substantial negative consequences, both in the short and long term. As well as the economic implications, experiences of unemployment increase the likelihood of subsequent unemployment, which in the long-term can lead to psychological distress, family breakdown and long-term poverty (Boese & Scutella, 2006; Marks, Hillman, & Beavis, 2003).

Chapter 11 Education and learning has further data on pathways after leaving school.

The 2011 ABS Census estimated that there were 10,009 children aged 15-17 years in NSW who were not engaged in either education or work (Table A9.1 (XLSX 208.1KB)). This equates to 3.9 per cent of all 15–17 year olds.

Census data from 2011 shows that among children aged 15–17 years who were not enrolled in education, the proportion who were not in employment[3] varied by area across NSW. Outside of Sydney, the Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven had the highest proportion of children who were not in employment among those not in education (56.2%), followed by Mid North Coast (55.1%) (Table A9.6) (XLSX 208.1KB).  The highest proportions within Sydney were in the Inner West (65.9%) and Parramatta (65.0%) (Table A9.6) (XLSX 208.1KB).

The Council of Australian Government’s (COAG) National Partnership on Youth Attainment and Transitions Agreement aims to minimise the number of young people not engaged in education or employment. The Agreement was introduced in 2009 and aims to achieve a national Year 12 or equivalent attainment rate of 90 per cent by 2015. The Agreement also provides an education or training entitlement to young people aged 15–24 and assists them to make a successful transition from schooling into further education, training or employment.

Source: http://deewr.gov.au/national-partnership-youth-attainment-and-transitions

Since 1 January 2010, all students in NSW have been required to stay at school until they complete year 10.  They must then continue to be engaged in some form of education, training or employment until they are 17 years old. This reform aims to provide additional educational opportunities for every school student in NSW that will ultimately enhance their employment capacity and earning potential.

Source: http://www.schools.nsw.edu.au/leavingschool/index.php

Children’s individual income

The decisions children make about their employment and study has clear implications for their personal income (Muir, et al., 2009). The income of children is related to their employment status which, as discussed above, is related to the school leaving age in NSW. As of January 2010 NSW school students were required to remain in school until the age of 17 unless the young person was in employment.

Income of children combining education and work

In 2011, the majority (85.1%) of 15–17 year olds who combined education and work had a weekly income of $1-$199. A small proportion (11.6%) of 15–17 year olds combining education and work had a weekly income of $200 or more. This likely reflects the part-time or casual nature of these children’s work (Table A9.7) (XLSX 208.1KB).

From the age of 16 (or 15 in some circumstances) young people may be eligible to receive Youth Allowance, which is a payment from the Commonwealth Government to assist young people if they are studying, undertaking training or an Australian Apprenticeship, or looking for work.

Source: http://www.humanservices.gov.au/customer/services/centrelink/youth-allowance

Income of school leavers

In 2011, over a quarter (26.2%) of 15–17 year olds who had left school had no income.  Around a quarter (24.5%) had a weekly income of $1–$199, 16.9 per cent had an income of $200–$299, 15.3 per cent had an income of $300-$399, and 15.0 per cent received an income of $400 or more per week (Figure 9.3) (Table A9.7) (XLSX 208.1KB).

Figure 9.3: Individual weekly income of 15–17 year olds not enrolled in education, NSW, 2011

Note: Percentages exclude those where information on income, education or employment was unavailable

Source: NSW Commission for Children and Young People calculations based on ABS 2011 Census of Population and Housing. (Table A9.7) (XLSX 208.1KB)

References

ABS. (2006a). Child Employment. Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Catalogue No. 6211.0.

ABS. (2006b). Census Dictionary. Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Catalogue No. 2901.0.

AIHW. (2009). A Picture of Australia's Children 2009. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. AIHW Catalogue No. PHE 112.

Bachman, J. G.& Schulenberg, J. (1993). How part-time work intensity relates to drug use, problem behaviour, time use and satisfaction among high school seniors: Are these consequences or merely correlates. Developmental Psychology. (29) 220–235.

Barnett, M. (2008). Economic disadvantage in complex family systems: expansion of family stress models. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 11(3), 145–161.

Bird, S., et al,. (2009). Adolescent overload? Report of the inquiry into combining school and work: supporting successful youth transitions. Canberra: House of Representatives, Standing Committee on Education and Training.

Boese, M., & Scutella, R. (2006). The Brotherhood's Social Barometer: challenges facing Australian youth. Fitzroy: Brotherhood of St Lawrence.

Commission for Children and Young People (2005). Children at Work. Researched and written by Toby Fattore, Sydney: NSW Commission for Children and Young People, 2005.

DEEWR. (2009). Media release: Finding jobs for young people the number one priority. Canberra: Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.

Heady, B., & Verick, S. (2006). Jobless households: longitudinal analysis of the persistence and determinants of joblessness using HILDA data for 2001–03. Melbourne: Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, University of Melbourne.

Marks, G., Hillman, K., & Beavis, A. (2003). Dynamics of the Australian youth labour market: the 1975 cohort, 1996–2000. Camberwell, VIC: Australian Council for Educational Research.

Muir, K., Mullan, K., Powell, A., Flaxman, S., Thompson, D., & Griffiths, M. (2009). State of Australia’s Young People: A report on the social, economic, health and family lives of young people. Canberra: Office for Youth, Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.

NSW Commission for Children and Young People. (2005). Children at Work. Researched and written by Toby Fattore, Sydney: NSW Commission for Children and Young People

NSW Commission for Children and Young People (2009) Ask the Children: I want to work Sydney: NSW Commission for Children and Young People

Robinson, L. (1996). School students and part-time work. Camberwell, VIC: Australian Council for Educational Research.

Shore, R. (1997). Rethinking the brain: new insights into early development. New York: Families and Work Institute.

Vickers, M., Lamb, S., & Hinkley, J. (2003). Student workers in high school and beyond: the effects of part-time employment on participation in education, training and work. Camberwell, VIC: Australian Council for Educational Research.


[2] This includes those who are unemployed and looking for work as well as those who are not in the labour force.
[3] This includes those who are unemployed and looking for work as well as those who are not in the labour force.