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The Law Attitude of Child Labor Research Paper

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Updated: Sep 7th, 2021


Child labor can be defined as, work for children which harms or exploits them in some ways like- physically, mentally, morally, or by blocking access to education.

Laws of child labor in the United States

The United States has adopted numerous statutes and rules regulating the employment of minors, called child labor laws. According to the United States Department of Labor, child labor affects those under the age of 18 in a variety of occupations.

The National Child Labor Committee, an organization dedicated to the abolition of all child labor, was constructed in 1904. It managed to pass one law, which was struck down by Supreme Court two years later for violating a child’s right to contract his work. In 1924 Congress attempted to pass a constitutional amendment that would authorize a national child labor law. This measure was stopped, and the bill was eventually dropped. It took the great depression to stop child labor all around the nation; adults had become so desperate for jobs that they would work for the same wage.

Minimum age according to law

A child under the age of 14 may not be employed, except as:

  • A newspaper carrier (should not below 11 years of age)
  • In agriculture (should not below 12 years of age with parent consent)
  • An actor, actress, or model;

The law attitude of child labor

In the United States, the first child labor law was passed by Massachusetts in 1836; it required that children should spend more than three months in the school that was employed in manufacturing and were under the age of 15. Most states had some law regulating child labor, by the end of the 19th century but the scope was limited.

The law attitude of child labor began changing in the early 1900s, in part as a moral issue, but also due to changes in the U.S. Economy. By 1913, all but nine states had fixed 14 years as the minimum age for factory work.

Nationally, Congress tried many times in the 1910s and 1920s to regulate child labor but was blocked by the Supreme Court, which at the time interpreted the Constitution as against federal interference in the free market. The first federal child labor law, which barred from interstate commerce any goods made by factories employing children under 14 years of age or employing children between 14 and 16 for more than eight hours a day, six days a week, or at night, was struck down as unconstitutional in 1918. The second child labor law was stuck down in 1922.

Reformers even sought to amend the Constitution to permit federal regulation of child labor. Congress approved the amendment in 1924 and sent it to the states for approval, where it was rejected. By 1925, only four states had approved the amendment, 34 had rejected it.

In the end, it got a new life by FDR’s New deal and his court-packing plan, the Supreme Court began approving a broader interpretation of the federal government’s commerce power, and Congress could pass a law regulating the market, including child labor. The Fair Labor Standards Act became law in 1938 and established a minimum age of 16 years for non-agricultural employment, with some provision for 14 and 15-year-old under certain conditions.

Restricted work for children below 16 years of age according to law

Hazardous Work

Child labor laws govern more than just the duration of employment. They also restrict teens from working in hazardous occupations or operating dangerous machinery. Violation of the law and on-duty injuries among children are on the upswing. Health officials estimate that nearly 230,000 young workers are injured in the workplace every year.

Children under the age of 18 can not drive as an occupation and can not operate power-driven slickers or paper balers (large compactors). When a child’s work hours or work conditions do not match with child labor laws, it is illegal employment. Each year, thousands of children are found to be illegally employed.


  • To operate the machinery or assist in the operation of machinery.
  • Laundry, rug cleaning, or dry cleaning equipment.
  • Power-driven snow blowers, lawnmowers, or garden equipment.
  • Drill presses, milling machines, grinders, lathes, and portable power-driven machinery.
  • Meat slicers, textile-making machines, or bakery machinery.
  • In oiling, cleaning, or maintaining any power-driven machinery.


In any agricultural operation declared by the U.S. Secretary of Labor to be particularly hazardous for employment of children under the age of 16.


  • As an outside helper on a motor vehicle.
  • In or about an airport landing strip and taxi or maintenance aprons;


Welding, loader, or launcher for skeet or trap-shooting, manufacturing or a commercial warehouse, processing plants.


  • Lifting, carrying, or caring for patients in hospitals or nursing homes.
  • In walk-in meat freezers or meat coolers, except for the occasional entrance.


  • A 17-years-old high school graduate;
  • A child employed by a business solely owned and daily supervised by one or both parents;
  • A child employed at tasks away from or outside of the area of hazardous operation, equipment, or material.


Nowadays, child labor in the United States implies teenagers who are full-time students and part–time employees, a very different scenario from that existing in developing countries. Still, the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division finds thousands of violations each year. A study sponsored by the associated press in 1997 found that about 1% of all children were employed illegally either by working excessive hours or in hazardous occupations. The study found that illegal employment was concentrated geographically in the Midwest and in non-metropolitan areas, and occupationally in construction, manufacturing, and sales.


Compliance Assistance Employment Law Guide. U.S. Department of Labor.

Illegal Child Labor in the United States (Rutgers University, sponsored by the Associated Press, 97 ).

U.S. Department of labor, report on the youth labor force.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "The Law Attitude of Child Labor." September 7, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-law-attitude-of-child-labor/.


IvyPanda. (2021) 'The Law Attitude of Child Labor'. 7 September.

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