U.S. Department of Labor’s releases findings on global child labor, gives U.S. child tobacco labor a pass

Child Rights
Safety

The U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) 2013 Findings on The Worst Forms of Child Labor in accordance with the Trade and Development Act of 2000, report released last week, suggest there is major improvement on child labor around the world.

In a statement last week regarding the report, U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez said, “The report shines a light on the estimated 168 million children around the world who toil in the shadows — crawling underground in mine shafts, sewing in textile factories or serving in households as domestic workers.”

But Secretary Perez’s statements on child labor in the world have one glaring omission: there are child laborers right here in the United States also working in hazardous conditions.

According to a recent Human Rights Watch report, Tobacco’s Hidden Children: Hazardous Child Labor in US Tobacco Farming, the children working in the tobacco industry are exposed to extreme measures of nicotine, toxic pesticides, and other dangers. Many of the children suffer from dizziness, headaches, nausea, and vomiting, all common symptoms of nicotine poisoning. Nearly all children interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that their employers did not provide health education, safety training, or personal protective equipment while working.

Preventing exploitation of children in the worst forms of child labor requires ongoing effort and vigilance. DOL is the sole federal agency that monitors child labor and enforces child labor laws. The only federal law that restricts the employment of child workers is the Fair Labor Standards Act, enforced by DOL’s Wage and Hour Division. U.S. labor laws do not comply with international standards, it allows agriculture child to work in extreme conditions at the earliest age of 12-years-old. The laws do not provide safeguards for farm-working children, which work under extremely hard conditions of labor work. The FLSA has a minimum age of 14 for employment in non-hazardous, non-agriculture industries, but with long hours of 12 to 14 hour days with very limited bathrooms breaks or water to drink. The WHD found violations of labor laws in 70 percent of investigations they conducted in the past three years of tobacco growers.

There are advanced findings in the new DOL report, child labor around the world looks to be improving by a decent percent. According to DOL, 9 percent of the countries assessed-nearly one in 10 reported “significant advancement” in their child labor responses and half of the countries assessed experienced moderate advancement. 36 percent- just over one in three- were judged to have made minimal or no advancement.

The data from the 2013 Findings on The Worst Forms of Child Labor should be an indication that we too as a nation need to look at our child labor standards.

More information about the report it is available at http://www.dol.gov/ilab/. Join the Conversation on twitter by using #Childlabor #InvestInKids & tagging @USDOL.