Sixteen-year-olds in the United States can hold a driver's licence, and in Germany they can legally buy wine and beer.

Many teenagers in the West have part-time jobs and responsibilities that are a world away from the maids, drivers and school buses that spirit Hong Kong's wealthier youngsters from door to door.

It is generally held that Hong Kong's labour laws prevent all but the oldest teenagers from delivering newspapers, babysitting, waitressing or working in shops. But the city's parents may be making rods for their own backs by letting their teenage trustafarians' sense of entitlement get out of hand.

Recent snippets of overheard conversation include: "My teenager lost his third iPhone" (why on earth would you keep replacing it?); "My 14-year-old can't budget on HK$8,000 a month"; and "No teens here work, why should mine?"

"Spare the rod and spoil the child" was once a proverb of some acclaim. Today's parents seem often to live up to another one: "A fool and his money are soon parted." Perhaps it's time they reassessed.

Charity begins at home, but it might also start in the office. If the labour laws are unyielding, perhaps Hong Kong's corporate movers and shakers should shake things up by encouraging mentoring and work experience. Unpaid intern schemes would help build self-esteem and give young folk something to engage with other than the glare of shopping malls, bars and gadgets.

Perhaps Albert Einstein nailed it when he said, "The only source of knowledge is experience."