“Child labor” conjures up images of turn-of-the-century exploitation of children in sweatshops. In reality, no matter what the job or location, employing a child means cheap labor. Generally, it costs less for an employer to hire a young person than to hire an adult.
In 1988, the Department of Labor reported that 4 million youths under the age of 18 were working. These figures did not include minors who worked “off the books” or were paid “under the table” to avoid paying taxes. It did not include children in agriculture, undocumented workers in sweatshops, or those working in street trades. According to the United Farm Workers of America, 800,000 underage children work in migrant labor alone.
Hand-in-hand with the growing number of working minors, is an increasing concern among parents, educators, the medical community, and child advocates about youth employment. Questions regarding the appropriateness of stricter hour restrictions and concern over outdated hazardous occupations have arisen in response to the following trends:
We must work to ensure that education remains “our youth’s primary job.” Women’s League for Conservative Judaism urges:
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