What work protections do 16-year-olds have when exceptions to minimum-age protections are considered?


This map tells us types of work that 16-year-olds are legally permitted to do under exceptions to minimum age for work.

­ More information:

  • Legal exceptions are cases where the legislation allows children to do work at a younger age under specific circumstances. For hazardous work, we include any exception to the minimum age for hazardous work except “force majeure” (extraordinary circumstances such as war) and “no harm to health, safety, and morals” (because in this case the work would no longer be defined as hazardous). For general employment and light work, exceptions include specific types of work, such as agricultural, temporary, or seasonal work; exceptions to allow children to work with family members; and exceptions that require only minister or government approval or when the work is deemed indispensable for the child or their family, because these may not be adequately protective in practice.
  • Hazardous work is work that is harmful to children’s health or safety. If a country explicitly defined hazardous work in its legislation, its own definition was used. For countries that do not define hazardous work, we use the International Labour Organization’s definition: “(a) work which exposes children to physical, psychological or sexual abuse; (b) work underground, under water, at dangerous heights or in confined spaces; (c) work with dangerous machinery, equipment and tools, or which involves the manual handling or transport of heavy loads; (d) work in an unhealthy environment which may, for example, expose children to hazardous substances, agents, or processes, or to temperatures, noise levels, or vibrations damaging to their health; (e) work under particularly difficult conditions such as work for long hours or during the night or work where the child is unreasonably confined to the premises of the employer.” In some cases, there is no minimum age for hazardous work, but there is a minimum age for general employment. In these cases, we assume children are not protected from hazardous work once they reach the minimum age for general employment, because any type of work is permitted at that age.
  • Work is any employment that is not specified as hazardous or light. Children may only be allowed to work in agriculture or with family members.
  • The International Labour Organization defines light work as “(a) not likely to be harmful to their health or development; and (b) not such as to prejudice their attendance at school, their participation in vocational orientation or training programmes approved by the competent authority or their capacity to benefit from the instruction received.” When a country does not explicitly define light work, we consider work “light” when legislation specifies that it cannot harm the child’s health or development or interrupt his or her schooling, or when the legislation explicitly identifies work that can be done at a younger age than general employment.