Ten out of the total 50 states of the United States of America are considering loosening child labour laws, which would permit the teenagers to work for more hours on school nights and in expanded roles, including serving alcohol in pubs.
According to The Metro, a number of US states are debating relaxing their regulations on child labour, including several that are considering letting teenagers sell alcohol in bars. The recent wave of child labour legislation began in Arkansas, where Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed into law a bill that removed the requirement for children under the age of 16 to get work permits from the state’s Division of Labour.
“The governor believes protecting teenagers is most important, but this permit was an arbitrary burden on parents to get permission from the government for their child to get a job,” a spokesperson for the Republican governor said.
The report in The Metro also stated that in April, the Republican-controlled Iowa legislature passed a bill that would allow children ages 14 and 15 to work in industrial launderettes, meat freezers, and perform ‘light assembly work’ in some factories. Minors aged 16 and 17 would also be permitted to serve alcohol at restaurants and bars, so long as the establishments are also serving food.
According to a report by Economic Policy Institute of the US, “at a time when serious child labour violations are on the rise in hazardous meatpacking and manufacturing jobs, several state legislatures are weakening-or threatening to weaken-child labour protections.”
“The trend reflects a coordinated multi-industry push to expand employer access to low-wage labour and weaken state child labour laws in ways that contradict federal protections, in pursuit of longer-term industry-backed goals to rewrite federal child labour laws and other worker protections for the whole country.”
“Children of families in poverty, and especially black, brown, and immigrant youth, stand to suffer the most harm from such changes.”
Meanwhile, according to a UNICEF report, roughly 160 million children were subjected to child labour at the beginning of 2020, with 9 million additional children at risk due to the impact of COVID-19. This accounts for nearly 1 in 10 children worldwide. Almost half of them are in hazardous jobs that directly endanger their health and development.
Children may be driven into work for various reasons. Most often, child labour occurs when families face financial challenges or uncertainty, whether due to poverty, the sudden illness of a carer, or the job loss of a primary wage earner.