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-1911 Child Labour in Dairying Districts

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An enquiry - some interesting results

- Evening Post 4th February 1911

Auckland this day,

An enquiry, which has produced some interesting results, has been undertaken by the Country Teachers' Association in regard to the use and abuse of child labour throughout the province. Circulars were sent out to the teachers of country schools asking how long children were employed in farm work (morning and night), how many hours' sleep they had, and what distances they had to come to school, and what satisfaction they gave as scholars?  A considerable number of circulars have been filled in and returned, and from these it is apparent that child labour is employed chiefly for milking cows. Several cases of which seen to involve distinct hardships on children are given.

"Physically and Generally Dwarfed"

Circulars have been furnished from so many schools showing that the pupils were employed morning and night in the milking shed, that it seems fairly well established that child labour is employed to some extent in the dairy industries almost right through the province.  The return furnished by a teacher in the Upper Thames district showed that twelve boys were milking in the aggregate eighty six cows in the morning and eighty nine at night - an average of over fourteen cows per day.  One boy of nine was milking eight cows night and morning, and walking two miles to school, and the teacher remarked of him that he was physically and generally dwarfed.  A boy of fifteen milked thirteen cows night and morning, and the teacher said of him that he was dull and undeveloped in every way, also that his attendance was irregular. A boy of nine milked twelve cows daily and walked three miles to school, and the teacher observed that he was generally worn out. 


A teacher in the Kaipara district mentioned the case of a boy of thirteen who milked fifteen cows a day, and always appeared to be "fagged".  In a school north of Auckland twenty-two pupils milked in the aggregate of over twelve cows per child per child daily.  The aggregate time occupied in farm work was 115 hours per day, a little over five hours per child.  The hours of sleep ranged from about 8 or 8.30 pm to 4 or 4.30 pm.  As the milking machine is generally looked upon as minimising the use of child labour, it is curious to note that one boy said he was employed six or seven hours a day looking after the machines.

Many Girls Kept Busy

Of the twenty two pupils mentioned, only one was a girl, but the teacher remarked that many girls had such duties as feeding calves and washing milking utensils allotted to them.  The children he said, appeared inert, and have no elasticity, even for play.  He had some difficulty in keeping them awake.

In another school north of Auckland there was a pupil of twelve years there was a pupil of twelve years who milked twenty two cows a day, and went three miles to school, while a boy of ten was milking fourteen cows a day.  In this school eight pupils were milking 120 cows a day - an average of fifteen a head.

A Remarkable Case

There must be something remarkable about a boy of fourteen who milked twenty eight cows daily, and slept only from 8.30pm to 4 a.m., attended school regularly, and is described as sturdy and intelligent.

The committee which made enquiries into the matter observes in its report that moderate home duties are beneficial rather than harmful to the young, and there can be no objection to the limited employment of children in dairying.  It as with the abuse of child labour the committee quarrels, and with the curtailing of the hours of sleep necessary for the proper physical and mental development of the child.

Sourced National Library of NZ



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