Worries Grow as States Consider Loosening Child Labour Laws
Lawmakers in several states are sparking concern as they embrace legislation aimed at expanding the types of hazardous occupations children can work in, increasing their working hours on school nights, and granting them expanded roles such as serving alcohol in bars and restaurants as young as 14.
These efforts to roll back labour rules have predominantly been led by Republican lawmakers who cite worker shortages as the primary motivation, often coming into conflict with federal regulations. However, child welfare advocates fear that these measures signal a coordinated attempt to undermine the hard-fought protections for minors.
Potential Disastrous Consequences for Young Workers
Child labour advocates are alarmed by the proposed changes, warning of potentially disastrous consequences. Reid Maki, director of the Child Labor Coalition, expresses concern about balancing labour shortages on the backs of teen workers and emphasizes the importance of safeguarding minors from exploitative labour policies.
The push to relax child labour laws in various states over the past two years has sparked a contentious debate, with some bills being passed into law while others were withdrawn or vetoed. The debate surrounding these changes raises questions about the fundamental rights and safety of young workers.
Lawmakers Seek to Address Worker Shortages by Relaxing Labour Laws
Amidst worker shortages that have contributed to rising wages and inflation, lawmakers in states like Wisconsin, Ohio, and Iowa are actively considering proposals to relax child labour laws. These measures are seen as a response to the difficulties employers face in filling open positions due to retirements, deaths, and illnesses from COVID-19, as well as a decline in legal immigration.
The tight job market, with an unemployment rate at its lowest in 54 years, has spurred the push to bring more children into the labour market. However, economists argue that there are alternative strategies to address the labour crunch without compromising the well-being of young workers.
Exploring Alternatives to Address Labour Shortages
Economists suggest various alternative strategies that can alleviate the labour crunch without resorting to increasing the hours or exposing children to hazardous working conditions. One prominent approach is to expand legal immigration, which has historically played a vital role in sustaining the country’s growth.
However, this solution remains politically divisive. Other potential strategies include encouraging older workers to delay retirement, providing more employment opportunities for formerly incarcerated individuals, and making child care more affordable to give parents greater flexibility in the workforce.