CULTURE

Summer jobs a lesson in real life for teens

Stuck in traffic in a taxi I got chatting to the driver about his family?s summer plans. He told me he has three children, aged 10, 12 and 17. ?The young ones are going to summer camp,? he said. ?My eldest wants to get a part-time summer job to earn some pocket money. I told her she should use the school holidays to relax, to rest — she?s got a tough year ahead with university entrance exams coming up in her senior year. It was like when she was 12 and wanted to work. I?d done a deal with a hairdresser in my neighborhood. I?d give her 2 euros a day and she would give it to my daughter as though she were paying her wages in return for doing odd jobs around the salon. Within a few days, my daughter started complaining that her feet hurt and she was tired. Now she tells me that she wouldn?t mind driving the cab. The whole point, though, is that she should never have to do a job like this, so I?m trying to convince her to take it easy.?

Other than earning a bit of pocket money beyond that which most Greek parents give their children anyway, summer jobs do not rank high in teenagers? holiday plans. Most parents discourage their children from getting jobs that they see as demeaning, while employers are also not keyed into the benefits they can reap from hiring students to work for them part-time or they don?t know whether they are even allowed to employ someone who is underage. Yet the advantages of children learning to work early on are many, especially in times of crisis.

A quick search on the Internet for part-time summer jobs open to students is indicative. The pickings are very slim indeed.

The fact that Greek children are not encouraged to work before they graduate from high school is in itself something of a social phenomenon.

According to a psychologist who works predominantly with teenagers and who wished to remain anonymous, there are many benefits to reversing trend. ?Other than the fact that it allows teenagers to gain some experience in an area that they may later be interested in pursuing professionally,? he said, ?they become immersed in a process that allows them to acquaint themselves with a professional environment and to take on certain new responsibilities. Sure, school teaches them to be on time and to respect deadlines, but when you have a job there are no breaks all the time, you can?t hang out with your friends and you don?t have the safety of your familiar environment.?

The expert adds, however, that ?it is important to understand that Greek employers, even when they are willing to take on a teenager, know very little about the practical side of part-time seasonal employment for minors. Therefore, what you often see is teenagers having to take a lot more initiative in getting a job, and this is something good.?