Edinburgh academic in call to ‘bring back’ child labour

Dr Philip Cook
Dr Philip Cook
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CHILD labour should not be banned as it infantalises children and makes them less equal in society, a university academic has said.

Edinburgh University lecturer Philip Cook believes children should be able to work from any age and is preparing to make his case to the wider public at this year’s Fringe.

Dr Cook will take to the stage as part of the festival’s Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas series, whose 48 shows this year cover everything from romance novels and outer space to alternative facts and feminism.

In the hour-long show the 42-year-old political theory lecturer will present his own ideas on the controversial subject, before inviting questions from the audience.

Dr Cook, a dad-of-one himself, explained his talk was as much about galvanising action as challenging assumptions and encouraging people to consider the subject from a different perspective.

He said: “I am particularly interested in thinking about if children work more one of the big advantages for them is they can become more financially independent.

“That changes their relationship then with their families, it makes them more independent and they can make more choices. They don’t have to rely on other people for fulfilling their needs and whatever it is they might want.”

But it’s not just about money, with Dr Cook arguing that working from a younger age could also be both interesting and rewarding for the child.

Across Scotland children are able to work part-time from the age of 13, but the rules about what they can do are strict and only cover ‘light’ work such as paper rounds or shop work.

Under this age children are only allowed to work in TV, theatre and modelling.

Dr Cook said he would never want a child to work in dangerous or unsuitable conditions but said that employment in the right circumstances should be better considered. He is part of a group of around 100 academics across the world calling for the child labour ban to be ended.

He went on: “What comes to people’s minds when they object to child labour is those harrowing stories of the Industrial Revolution.

“Obviously we don’t want to go back to that [but] if there is work that’s interesting and safe then different children will be able to work at different ages. It will be something that could help them mature more quickly.

“We should certainly make sure children don’t do dangerous work but other than that children will have different ideas and ambitions and that’s something we should accept, celebrate and take into account more.”

Dr Cook’s show will get under way at New Town Theatre (Fringe venue seven) at 8.20pm on August 4.