The US government wants to crack down on an "alarming" rise in child labor in the country. "This is not a problem of the 19th century - this is a problem of today," said US Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh on Monday (local time). According to the data, the number of illegally employed minors in the United States has increased by two-thirds since 2018.
In the past fiscal year, the Department of Labor identified 835 companies employing 3,800 minors in violation of the law. It also found a 26 percent increase in underage workers "who were hired specifically for hazardous work." These are "alarming trends," a senior administration official told journalists.
To curb the increase, a joint working group of the Department of Labor and the Department of Health and Human Services - which also has responsibility for unaccompanied minors arriving in the United States - is to try to improve the exchange of information between the two agencies. In parallel, the Department of Labor wants to focus on better enforcement of existing laws.
In addition, companies should be held accountable if child labor is found at contractors and temporary work agencies. All too often, companies "look the other way" and blame recruitment agencies, subcontractors or suppliers, Labor Secretary Walsh said.
Under current law, the maximum penalty for child labor violations in the United States is $15,138. That's not "high enough to deter large, profitable companies," according to the Department of Labor.
In the USA, children can work from the age of 14. However, until they are 16, only a limited number of working hours are allowed so that they can continue to go to school.
The "New York Times" reported at the weekend on an increasing number of child migrants in the United States, some of whom are only twelve years old in car factories, on construction sites or for delivery services.