Child Labor:

The Characteristics of Working Children in the United States

T-HRD-91-13: Published: Mar 19, 1991. Publicly Released: Mar 19, 1991.

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GAO discussed the characteristics of America's working children, focusing on the: (1) economic and demographic characteristics of working 15- to 17-year-old children; (2) number of children that were seriously injured while working in violation of child labor laws from fiscal year (FY) 1983 to FY 1990; and (3) Department of Labor's (DOL) penalties assessed for serious injury cases. GAO noted that: (1) about 15 percent of all 15-year-olds and 51 percent of all 16- and 17-year-olds were employed some time during 1988; (2) low-income and minority children were less likely to be employed than high-income and white children; (3) when employed, low-income children were more likely to be employed in such hazardous industries as agriculture, manufacturing, or construction, and worked more hours a week but fewer weeks a year than high-income children; (4) in 1988, about 18 percent of employed 15-year-olds worked in violation of federal child labor regulations; (5) from FY 1983 through FY 1990, DOL detected 1,475 violations associated with serious workplace injuries for working children; (6) in FY 1990 cases where it could readily identify the assessed fines, DOL assessed the maximum non-willful violation penalty against businesses employing a child who was seriously injured; and (7) DOL did not cite any of those businesses for willful violations, nor did it refer any of those cases for criminal prosecution.

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