Number of child labour on the rise in the US

Number of child labour on the rise in the US

The US government has announced plans to clamp down on the surge in child labor in the country. The number of illegally employed minors in the US has risen by two thirds since 2018, coinciding with a massive influx of unaccompanied children fleeing poverty and violence in Latin America. Last fiscal year alone, 130,000 children were referred to US government shelters.

The Department of Labor identified 835 companies employing 3,800 children in violation of the law, and saw a 26% rise in children hired specifically for dangerous jobs.

To curb the rise, a joint task force by the Department of Labor and the Department of Health and Human Services will seek to improve information sharing between the two agencies.

A parallel initiative by the Labor Department will focus on better enforcement of existing laws, especially in regions and industries where offenses are most widespread. The department also vowed to hold companies accountable if contractors and temp agencies are found to be using child labor.

According to existing laws, the maximum fine for breaking child labor laws is $15,138 per case. “That’s not high enough to be a deterrent for major profitable companies,” said the Labor Department statement.

In the US, children are allowed to start work at 14, with a limited number of hours for children under 16 in order to allow them to continue to go to school. Certain dangerous jobs, in factories or slaughterhouses, for example, are off-limits for minors.

A weekend expose by The New York Times reported on an increased presence of migrant minors, some as young as 12 years old, working in sectors across the American economy from car factories to construction sites and delivery services.

Labor Secretary Marty Walsh called for Congress and states to come to the table to address the problem, stating that “this is not a 19th century problem — this is a today problem.” A senior administration official referred to the surge in child labor as an alarming trend.

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