Calls for Stricter Measures as Cases of Illegally Employed Children Rise in 5 Years

University of Michigan

Concept illustration of a young teen working in a factory. Image credit: Nicole Smith, made with Midjourney

The federal government reported a 69% increase in illegally employed children since 2018.

Employers across various sectors have been caught or accused of employing underage children, and the Labor Department is calling for increased enforcement measures and higher fines for child labor violations as states push for the rollback of child labor laws.

University of Michigan experts can discuss implications of child labor exploitation in the U.S.

Luis C.deBaca, professor from practice at Michigan Law, led U.S. government activities in the global fight against contemporary forms of slavery during the Obama administration. As Ambassador at Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons in the U.S. State Department, he updated statutes created after the Civil War and through the 13th Amendment to develop the victim-centered approach to modern slavery that has become the global standard for combating human trafficking.

“Most of the child labor statutes are more regulatory and companies are looking at systems of fines while the EEOC is more interested in age discrimination cases. Unfortunately, a lot of the time the remedy ends up being fines the company leverages as business costs,” he said. “There are several remedies but the reasons why states are trying to change the age requirements is to take away liabilities and remedies from people working on behalf of children. Instead of coming up with rational immigration reforms or making jobs better so that Americans want to do them, they are saying we are going to come up with a way to have children work.

“A lot of employers take advantage of a fairly well understood cultural response by many Latino communities of suffering in silence rather than standing up for one’s rights against an unfamiliar power structure. A number of companies and big corporations have made a lot of money out of the fact that the Latino community is less likely to affirmatively go and make a formal complaint about things.”

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