Can Children And Teenagers Work Legally In Singapore?

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If you’ve ever seen young kids working at food stalls or employed to distribute flyers, you might wonder about labour laws in Singapore and whether there is a minimum legal age to work in Singapore.

Here is a concise summary of the regulations regarding the employment of children and young persons in Singapore.

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Employment Of Children And Young Persons

The Employment Act forms the foundation of labour law in Singapore, with the Ministry of Manpower charged with the duty to enforce it.

In particular, Part 7 of the Employment Act (Restriction on the employment of children and young persons) and Employment (Children and Young Persons) Regulations contain additional provisions on hiring minors.

Depending on the age of the employee, different kinds of work is generally permitted:

AgeClassification Under Labour LawLight Work/ Non-IndustrialHeavy Work/ Industrial Setting
Below 13ChildNoNo
13 to below 15ChildYes*Only if family members are also working there
15 to below 16Young PersonYes*Yes*
16 and aboveAdult WorkerYesYes

* Subject to conditions

As you can see, children below the age of 13 are not legally allowed to work, while those 16 and above can be hired as a regular adult worker.

For those between the ages of 13 to under 16, their employment is contingent on employers fulfilling additional conditions, outlined in the next section.

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Additional Conditions For Employment Of Children And Young Persons 

# 1 Notifying the Ministry of Manpower

For employment of children or young persons in industrial environments, employers must inform the Commissioner of Labour within 30 days of employment and submit a medical certificate to certify fitness for work.

# 2 Cap on Working Hours Per Day

Children under the age of 15 who are still schooling can only work up to 6 hours each day. Young persons below the age of 16 who are still schooling can only work up to 7 hours each day. The exception is when the young person is working at MOE or ITE-approved internships or apprenticeships under proper supervision.

# 3 Conditions on Manual Labour

If you employ children or young persons below the age of 16 to perform manual labour, they would be classified as ‘workmen’. They cannot work at night between the hours of 11pm to 6am. They are also not allowed to work on their rest days without permission from the Commissioner for Labour.

In addition to the cap on working hours per day (See point # 2), children must be given a 30-minute break every 3 hours of work, while young persons must be given a 30-minute break every 4 hours of work.

# 4 Conditions on Work Environment

In general, while children and young persons are allowed to work in industrial settings (such as in construction, manufacturing or transportation), they are not allowed to work in hazardous environments, work on board a vessel, or work underground. They are also not supposed to service or operate moving machinery.

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As Singapore’s pioneer generation would attest, working at a young age fosters an independent spirit and forges a strong character. Perhaps during their time, our grandparents were already working at an age that is now allowed now under current labour laws.

Over time, laws were enacted to ensure children and young persons are protected and for them to have adequate time for their studies. After all, work is a lifelong endeavour, and there is no shortage of productive, working years ahead for the precious youths!

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