The state of Arkansas recently announced that it should be easier for high school kids to take work, and according to some, that means the end of the world.
NPR writes, “Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed a law this week rolling back requirements that the state verify the ages of workers under 16 and provide them with work certificates permitting them to work.
Effectively, the new law signed by the Republican governor applies to those who are 14 and 15 years old because in most cases Arkansas businesses can’t employ those under 14.
Under the Youth Hiring Act of 2023, children under 16 don’t have to get the Division of Labor’s permission to be employed. The state also no longer has to verify the age of those under 16 before they take a job. The law doesn’t change the hours or kinds of jobs kids can work.
“The Governor believes protecting kids is most important, but this permit was an arbitrary burden on parents to get permission from the government for their child to get a job,” Sanders’ communications director Alexa Henning said in a statement to NPR. “All child labor laws that actually protect children still apply and we expect businesses to comply just as they are required to do now.”
The response from the White House was entirely predictable. Reading the reactions would make you think that these kids are going to end up in coal mines and not grocery stores or fast food joints.
The Washington Post, for example, said, “Recent moves in some states to loosen child worker protections are ‘irresponsible’ and make it easier to hire children for dangerous work, the Labor Department’s top attorney said Thursday.
Instead of making it easier to hire youths for dangerous work, governments should try to “increase accountability and ramp up enforcement” of existing laws, Labor Solicitor Seema Nanda said in statement. ‘No child should be working in dangerous workplaces in this country, full stop.’”
Back in reality, though, work experience is proven to be both safe and effective for kids looking for work.
Reason Magazine explained why giving teenagers more opportunities to work can help them in the long run. “That’s a lot of benefit to be had from letting teenagers earn income and develop good work habits for later in life when the stakes are higher. And it’s a lot to sacrifice to satisfy critics who have their panties in a bunch over very minor reform. The bill that Sanders signed does nothing more than reduce state interference in the youth hiring process and leave work decisions to teens, employers, and parents. If businesses offer jobs, and parents and guardians sign off on the idea, willing 14- and 15-year-olds can now legally work within the tight parameters allowed by the U.S. Department of Labor. That’s the extent of the change.
Loosening the rules even further would be a great idea, further enhancing opportunity and prosperity. But prepare for a lot of hyperventilating by people who pretend that the best way to combat illegal child labor in the shadows is to prevent teens from being hired openly and legally.
Pending bolder reform, Arkansas has joined other states in letting some more teens work without bureaucratic approval, so long as their parents say it’s OK. It’s a step in the right direction.”
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