Child Labor:

Characteristics of Working Children

HRD-91-83BR: Published: Jun 14, 1991. Publicly Released: Jun 14, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined: (1) the economic and demographic characteristics of child workers; (2) the number of serious injuries sustained by children detected the Department of Labor as being illegally employed; and (3) Labor's policy with regard to penalizing employers illegally employing children who sustain serious injuries and to child labor violations generally.

GAO found that: (1) according to the Bureau of the Census, 28 percent of all 15-year-olds and 51 percent of all 16-to-17-year olds worked some time during 1988; (2) children aged 15 to 17 years from families with annual incomes of $20,000 or less were less likely to be employed than those from high-income families; (3) minority children aged 15 to 17 years were employed at a lower rate than white children in the same age group in 1988; (4) children from low-income families were more likely to be employed in agriculture or other hazardous industries, such as manufacturing or construction, and to work more hours per week but fewer weeks per year than children from high-income families; (5) about 18 percent of employed 15-year-olds worked in violation of federal child labor regulations governing maximum hours or minimum ages for employment; (6) between fiscal year (FY) 1983 and FY 1990, the Department of Labor detected 1,475 serious injuries of illegally employed children; (7) most violations involving serious injuries of working children were associated with hazardous order violations; (8) in FY 1990, Labor assessed the maximum nonwillful violation penalty of $1,000 against only child labor violators employing a child who was seriously injured; and (9) Labor did not cite any of those employers for willful violations and did not refer any for criminal prosecution.

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