Child Labor in American Agriculture |

Child Labor in American Agriculture

Agriculture is among the most hazardous industries for children to work in. There are hundredsof thousands of under 18 year’s children in the U.S. who are working in agricultural farms. For a lot ofchildren, work that is in the farm implies an early ...Read More

~Posted on Aug 2017

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Child Labor in American Agriculture

Agriculture is among the most hazardous industries...

Agriculture is among the most hazardous industries for children to work in. There are hundreds

of thousands of under 18 year’s children in the U.S. who are working in agricultural farms. For a lot of

children, work that is in the farm implies an early end of childhood, as they are engaged in long hours

in the farms at wages that are normally exploitative, as well as risking their health as well as their

lives at times. Even though their families need financial assistance, which makes compels them to send

children to work in the fields, the rate of poverty among farm workers are the cause of an increasing drop-

out of children from the schools. With the absence of basic education, children are left with very limited

options other than engaging in farm work activities as well as the poverty that goes with it (Association

of Farm worker Opportunity Programs, 2007).

According to the 2012 Fact Sheet, there were roughly farms in the United States. In the same

year, there were at least 955,400 youths who lived on far where nearly half of them (49%) were working

on their farms. Approximately 258,800 youths who were non-resident were employed in the agricultural

sector in the year 2012, an increase from 230,400 in 2009 (2012 Fact Sheet).

Fact Sheet 2012 states that for every three days in the U.S., one child dies as a result of accidents

that are agriculture-related. Machinery that are used in the farms are the leading sources of fatalities

that take place among all the fatalities that take place among the youths, with 25%, followed by 17%

that result from motor vehicles, whereas only 16% are as a result of drowning. There are

approximately 38 children who get injured within an incident that is related to agriculture. There were an

estimated 7,780 youths who were injured while in a farm, with 80 percent of them receiving injury while

not working.

Falls, animals, as well as vehicles, are the leading sources of injuries that are non-fatal with the

farm setting. The trends of injuries that occur on the farm have declined since 1998 by 61 percent for


every 1,000 farms. Whereas the overall rates are portraying declining trend, there is an increment in the

frequency of farm injuries among children who are less than ten years.

The Human Rights Watch, through study conducted in the U.S., exploitative and perilous

conditions in which children were working in as well as the destruction that is inflicted on their education

and heath was highlighted. Children experience these kinds of hardships as a result of weak laws that

protect the rights of children, which are as well scarcely enforced. According to the findings of the study,

it was found out that the conditions that children endure while at the agricultural farms remains the same

as they were more than ten years ago. Most remarkably, the US government has failed in its addressing

of the unequal treatment among children who are working as per the Fair Labor Standards Act

(FLSA), that offers few protections towards children who are working in the agriculture field, in

comparison to all the other children who are working.

Parents take their children to work in farms because they lack childcare as well as because they

need money in order to meet the fundamental expenses in addition to purchasing of school supplies. The

legality aspect of the work as well presents working on agricultural lands as a legitimate choice for the

employers, children, in addition to parents. However, there are some parents who later express regret over

the choice of allowing their children to work on agricultural lands.

The exploitation of children to work in agricultural lands offers no minimum age for children to

commence working in farms, as long as their parents have allowed it. Children who are at least 12 years

may be hired to work on agricultural lands in the US, provided there is parental consent, or in case they

are working with their parents in the farms. Nevertheless, after attaining 14 years, children may work on

any farm even without the approval of their parents. Apart from the agricultural sector, children have to

attain at least 16 years prior to them starting to work, with only a few exceptions, where they may work in

areas that have very restricted conditions (Human Rights Watch. 2012).

Most of the time, children work for at least 10 hours in a day with few breaks. For children who

are still schooling, work is allocated to them particularly during the weekends as well as summers when


schools are closed. However, children who have dropped out of schools, with the inclusion of

unaccompanied children coming without their families to the US from countries like Mexico work

whenever work is available.

The US laws do not provide for the maximum number of hours that children in the US can work

on agricultural lands. Nevertheless, in other non-agricultural fields, children who are between 14-15 years

cannot be allowed to work for 3 hours a day.

Another significant aspect about children who work in agricultural lands is that they typically

earn less than the legally minimum wage. The reason for a pay cut for children is mainly due to

under reporting of hours worked for by the employers as they are compelled to purchase tools, as well

as other equipment that they are obligated by the law to provide for their workers.

Children are exposed to a lot of health perils by working in agricultural lands. For instance, by

working on the agricultural lands without the appropriate working equipment, children may be exposed

to pesticides that are being sprayed on plants, hence posing a health threat to them. Some children in the

US have aired their complaint to the Human Rights Watch that they even get sprayed on by the pesticides

when they are in the farm working. There have been complaints as well concerning lack of provision of

clean water by the employers, which is against the OSHA act that requires agricultural employers to

provide safe drinking water to their workers (Agricultural Safety, 2009).

The exposure to pesticides is a key hazard among the farm workers, but more specifically on

children as their bodies are still developing. They are especially vulnerable to chemicals as they may

absorb them much easily as compared to the adults. Children who are working in agricultural farms

record a high rate of illnesses that are related to pesticides. Some of the effects of exposure to pesticides

includes rashes, nausea, as well as vomiting. Consequently, the long-term effects include brain damage or

even death in severe cases.

The EPA regulations in the US prohibits the spraying of crops with pesticides when workers in

the field are not protected. The EPA specifies the amount of time that people ought to be permitted to


work on a farm after it has been sprayed with a pesticide. Nevertheless, the EPA regulations do not make

any special considerations for the children who are working on farms. In addition, pesticides risk

assessment does not take the vulnerabilities of children into account.

Sexual Abuse: children who work in agricultural lands are very vulnerable to sexual abuse that

range from inappropriate or intimidating comments towards groping, sexual assault, as well as rape. Even

when such incidences take place, there are several factors that inhibit their reporting to the relevant

authorities. They include factors such as geographical isolation, fear of deportation, as well as the

desperate need for money.

In conclusion, despite the above highlighted health as well as safety risks that come with the

working on children in working on agricultural lands, the laws in the US are scarcely enforced so as to

safeguard the rights belonging to the children. Children are the pillars of the future society, and they

ought to be safeguarded by any means possible. The US Department of Labor, should come up with

stricter rules for allowing children to work in firms. In addition, the current laws should as well be