First job (age)
Answers to the question “at what age did you start your first job?” show a broad age distribution, 6 to 45 years old. This diversity of age of first employment suggests a diversity of employment experiences, based on how families decide on labor needs and potentials.The case of a woman in the neighborhood of 15 de Marzo, south of the city center, illustrates the hardships that push young children into the labor force.
Leonor began working when she was 5 years old. She was sent to a hacienda in Quininde to work as a domestic employee, helping with house chores (washing, cooking, cleaning) while her mother remained in the city. Leonor remained in this hacienda until she turned 18, when she decided to return to her family. She recalls her employer was kind to her but also that she missed being away from her family.
As Leonor started her own family, she decided to stay with her children. While she is trained as a teacher, she chose to start her own clothes resale and food services businesses so that she could be close to her family. As a teacher, she would have to work in places far from home and would not be able to care for her children.
It is one thing to learn about what people do today economically to make ends meet; it is another to learn about their first job. Just as is the current trend in employment, the very first economic activities people engaged in as their “first job” are in the social reproduction sector.