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Child employment falls 40%

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The number of children working part-time has almost halved in the last five years, according to BBC News.

A survey of 101 local authorities in England and Wales shows that the number of 13-15 year-olds licensed to work part-time jobs in 2004 stood at around 50,000. By 2009, this number fell to 30,500 -- a drop of almost 40%.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show a similar trend among 16 and 17 year-olds in full-time education. Around four out of 10 teenagers in this age group had jobs during the late 1990s, but in the first quarter of this year little more than two out of 10 were working.

Terry Drury, the chairman of the National Network for Children in Employment and Entertainment, says: "In the last few years schools have altered their starting times. Now clearly that must restrict youngsters from doing jobs like a paper round."

"When we go and knock on employers' doors, the report comes back that they can employ an adult for just the same price as someone at school," he added.

The Children's Commissioner, Maggie Atkinson, isn't too concerned about the continued decline in 13 to 15 year-olds working.

"Their brain is still going through a furious pace of development," she said. "Putting them through extra hours of work when their schooling is as demanding as it is -- for some youngsters, it would be the last straw."

Berry Mayall, professor of childhood studies at the Institute of Education, disagrees. He thinks the emphasis on "education, education, education" has gone too far.

"Quite frankly, school doesn't really suit everybody," she says. "Paid work brings in some money of your own. It gives you a taste of a world outside school. And it gives you a sense that you are able to do something other than school work."

Jane Humphries, professor of economic history at the University of Oxford, says children have effectively become the "priceless possessions" of neurotic parents. "Because they can obtain pocket money from parents, they can by and large enjoy drifting around in society. You have to actually exercise some responsibility and initiative in order to get a job," she says.

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