Meredith F. Small:

How competent are 4-year-olds? They are competent enough to work. By “work,” I don’t mean on the factory line, or forced labor of any kind. Instead, I mean tasks that are, by any cultural standard, age-appropriate.

Look outside Western culture and watch children, even very small children, as they gather firewood, weed gardens, haul water, tend livestock, care for younger children and run errands. And no one complains because they are mostly outside and usually with other children.

Furthermore, child labour laws in the US set the minimum working age at 16. What exactly is wrong about a 13-year-old working at Walmart for a few hours during the weekend? I think too many conjure up an image of an oppressed, miserable child slaving away for 12 hours a day making not a penny more than minimum wage when "child labour" is mentioned.

I would have not mind working a little when I was young -- around 10-14 years of age. The problem was that I lived in Saudi Arabia. Only my dad could work in that foreign land. After hearing my complaints, my father offered me a small deal: wash the car, wax the car, then wipe off the wax; all under the blazing sun in the brutal Arabian heat.

My wage? $1.33. It would take me two hours to complete the work. I sure did understand the value of money a lot more after that.


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