Biden Cracks Down on Child Labor: The Kiplinger Letter

The White House has announced steps to combat child labor in the U.S., which reached a two-decade high in 2023.

To help you understand what the Biden administration is doing to combat a growing child labor problem in the U.S., and what we expect to happen in the future, our highly experienced Kiplinger Letter team will keep you abreast of the latest developments and forecasts (Get a free issue of The Kiplinger Letter or subscribe). You'll get all the latest news first by subscribing, but we will publish many (but not all) of the forecasts a few days afterward online. Here’s the latest…

The Biden administration wants to tackle a growing child labor problem. Child labor violations reached a two-decade high in fiscal year 2023. Per data kept by the Labor Department, 5,729 minors were found working in violation of federal law, up from 3,876 last year and 1,163 in 2014. Since 2018, child labor has gone up 69%. 

Experts blame a variety of factors for the surge, from the historically tight labor market prompting employers to hire minors to high inflation inflicting more hardship on households. The U.S. has also seen an influx of migrant children from Latin America fleeing violence and poverty, a majority of whom do not have a parent in the U.S. 

Uncle Sam is starting to crack down, levying $8 million in penalties on employers for child labor violations in the fiscal year 2023, up 83% from 2022.

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The president has asked for an extra $100 million to aid enforcement as part of the White House’s $100 billion-plus supplemental funding request to Congress, but it’s unclear whether the money will survive once the request has been picked over.

Federal labor law prohibits children younger than 14 from working, and all minors from working in industries the Department of Labor deems hazardous.

This forecast first appeared in The Kiplinger Letter, which has been running since 1923 and is a collection of concise weekly forecasts on business and economic trends, as well as what to expect from Washington, to help you understand what’s coming up to make the most of your investments and your money. Subscribe to The Kiplinger Letter.

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Matthew Housiaux
Reporter, The Kiplinger Letter
Housiaux covers the White House and state and local government for The Kiplinger Letter. Before joining Kiplinger in June 2016, he lived in Sioux Falls, SD, where he was the forum editor of Augustana University's student newspaper, the Mirror. He also contributed stories to the Borgen Project, a Seattle-based nonprofit focused on raising awareness of global poverty. He earned a B.A. in history and journalism from Augustana University.