Category: Law Essay


This paper explores the history of the formation and present condition of child labor laws in the United States. The author aims to justify the provisions of federal and state laws as well as to determine their relevance within the framework of modern labor legislation. The paper provides an analysis of such documents as the Keating-Owen Child Labor Act, Massachusetts Adoption of Children Act, and Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The stated regulations determine the prohibition of work for children less than 14 years old with several exceptions. The author notes the connection between child labor laws and state laws on compulsory education. He concludes that the programs aimed to reduce the child labor and increase school attendance rates must be developed with respect to the specific economic, legal and social situations of each state.


Legal consolidation of the special attitude of society to the younger generation is a trend inherent in many countries. In the context of laws protecting the rights of minors, child labor is defined as the work carried out by children. Nature and intensity of such work interfere with learning or harm kids’ health and development. The major concern, in this case, is fates of children deprived of childhood and future that from an early age work long hours in the conditions harmful to their health, physical and intellectual development. Such work may cause irreparable harm to children being contrary to international laws and usually national legislation of individual countries.

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Sometimes children themselves decide to start working because they know that their families desperately need additional income. In the labor market, there is a demand for child labor because children are usually obedient and humble. It is much easier to hire them at lower wages and fire when there is no need for the labor force. Employers consider cheap child labor as an important factor for the competitiveness of their businesses and products in national and international markets. In terms of employees’ rights, working children are completely unprotected. In most cases, employers hire kids for labor-intensive industries, which use outdated technology and monotonous work.

The research paper aims to study the history of development and current conditions of child labor laws in the United States at both federal and state levels and determine their justification in the context of today’s America.


At the times of establishment of the first colonies in the territory of the USA, the family was considered as its main production unit. The reason is that its survival was dependent on its ability to produce everything needed itself, instead of relying on others.

In the XIX-early XX century, in the USA, child labor was treated as a common thing. Due to the low wages paid to children, their exploitation in the workplace has brought high profits to entrepreneurs. There were many factories, employing only children. Thus, the kids worked voluntarily and with the consent of parents. In the past, they had no choice because of the constant need for additional money for bread. Working hands, even the smallest and weakest, had to feed themselves on their own.

Massachusetts Adoption of Children Act ordered the adopted kids to obey the parents by adoption. The author believes that this helped confirm unhindered use of forced or voluntary child labor, as even the law had emphasized the power of parents over their offspring.

December 18, 1865, came into force with the amendment ХІІІ to the U.S. Constitution, which abolished slavery throughout the United States. The author believes that this factor also to some extent contributed to greater employment of minors. Youth voluntarily agreed to work to support themselves and help the family, as many men died during the Civil War or returned disabled.

Aiming to solve the problem of homelessness and vagrancy, there some houses of refuge initially only in certain cities and only for boys appeared. The first such house operated in New York in 1825; later the similar ones were organized in Boston and Philadelphia. As for homeless girls, they were living in private houses as maids. The main objective of building houses of refuge was the maintenance of boys who did not have parents or whose parents did not want or were unable to care for them. The education aimed to make youngsters rightful and hard-working members of society. Different workshops and stores operated at houses of refuge. Children made shoes and furniture, each working for 10-15 cents a day. This way the houses of refuge, as a result of sales of goods manufactured by kids, reimbursed the money spent on their maintenance. If boys did not produce as many products as required, the administration severely punished them.

In general, the use of child labor (voluntary and forced) was a quite common practice up to the beginning of a campaign for its abolition. Thus, in 1907, the U.S. Congress established the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC), which carried out inspections in various industries. It was related primarily to industrial production on revealing the employment of children.

The first federal law regulating the employment of youngsters was the Keating-Owen Child Labor Act based on the proposal of Senator Albert J. Beveridge (1916). This short law (only seven articles) forbade the employment of children less than 14 years old in unloading operations, canning factories, workshops, and factories. It allowed employment of children aged 14 to 16, but not more than for 8 hours a day and six days a week. These restrictions had to be implemented as follows: the sale and export of any product manufactured, packed or transported by the work of persons under the age of 14 was banned.

In 1938, Congress adopted the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), regulating, among other issues, child labor (Whittaker, 2003, p. 3). The Act established a minimum wage and maximum working hours for children. Obviously, the document is being in a constant process of reconsideration adjusting to modern conditions.

Thus, for a long time in the U.S. and many other countries, which currently apply well-developed mechanisms to protect the rights of minors, child labor has not been prohibited.

Current Child Labor Laws

Federal and state legal frameworks serve as a basis for the regulation of child labor. They may have inconsistencies and overlaps, but they also have a common subject of regulation: young workers under the age of 18. The monitoring of observance of child labor laws is carried out by the Departme