Essay Writing Samples

Essay on Child Labor

This sample argumentative essay from Ultius concerns itself with American labor legislation and the success of American labor laws in the last century; it argues that child labor laws are satisfactory and need no serious overhaul at the moment.

Child Labor in the U.S.

Child labor, defined as the employment of children less than a legally specified age, has come a long way in the United States and the rest of the developing world over the last century. The inadequacies of child labor legislation has long been chronicled in poetry and literature, with Charles Dickens as an advocate against child exploitation in the workplace. The US has passed several federal laws, including the Fair Labor Standards Act, to improve the standards of work for children and all workers. Many states have also passed their own laws, which further improve standards. These laws mandate that children be a certain age before they are allowed to work, and that they work in safe conditions, for reasonable amounts of time, and for fair pay. This considered, I believe that child labor laws in the United States have advanced to a satisfactory level, and currently are in need of no further changes or additions.

The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938

The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 set the following criteria:

  1. A minimum age for employment at 14-years-old
  2. 16-years-old for employment during school hours
  3. 18-years-old for occupations deemed to be too dangerous for minors

This act has been amended many times to accommodate changing time schedules and economic circumstances. Occupations that have been deemed too dangerous include, but are not limited to:

  • Mining
  • Manufacturing or storing of explosive materials
  • Driving
  • Operating heavy machinery
  • Exposure to radioactive material

The Fair Labor Standards act limits children under the age of 16 to:

  • Working 3 hours a day on school days and
  • No more than 18 hours in a school week
  • 8 hours on non-school days
  • 40 hours in a non-school week, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., except for during summer vacation, when nighttime work hours are extended to 9 p.m.

The act also mandates that minors must receive no less than $4.25 per hour for their first 90 days, at which point their pay grade must be raised to $7.25 per hour, which is the current minimum wage.

State mandated sanctions to labor legislation

Most state laws have added to the protection of our children by insisting that if the child is to be at work for 5 hours or longer, they must have a break period of at least 35 minutes in which they are given the opportunity to eat, rest, and refresh themselves. Once the child is 18 years old the employer is still required to offer this break period, but the child is allowed to deny it. If a minor is working more than an 8-hour shift, the employer is required to allow an extra 15 minute break and another half hour break at 11 hours.

Some states also further limit the amount of hours a child is allowed to work, and provide for exemptions from hour limitations in certain occupations and situations. Certain states allow 16 and 17-year-olds to work a night shift, i.e. 10 p.m.-5 a.m., if they do not have school the next day and have a parent’s permission, however, this should be discouraged as the effects of overnight employment have proven to be detrimental to health. Most states also have laws that require the employer to obtain a certificate signed by either the child’s school, a government office, or both, saying that the child is of age, capable, and eligible to work.

More to be done

The only changes I foresee being necessary to labor laws in the near future are possible increases in the minimum wages paid to both children and adults, and hours allowed, because of increasing economic hardship and other issues affecting the American economy. There are often circumstances where children work not because they want to, but because they need to help support their families. This could soon become a necessity to improve not only the working environment for our children, but their overall quality of life. It is important to keep in mind that children must not be allowed to work more than what allows them to keep up with their schoolwork, and must be kept out of dangerous jobs at all costs, but some allowances may need to be made in the not too distant future.


All of this taken into consideration, I believe that child labor laws in the United States are at a satisfactory level for the time being and currently no update to the regulations are required.  That being said, child labor laws must continue to do what they have done over the last century, and grow with the economic and social changes that are bound to occur. While many issues in modern culture sadly go unremedied, child labor, at least in America, has been effectively corrected and monitored. Thankfully, the woes imparted upon young workers like those seen in Dickens’ Hard Times, are a thing of the past.


“Child Labour.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2013. Web. 29 Mar. 2013. .

“Fair Labor Standards Act.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2013. Web. 29 Mar. 2013. .

“Youth & Labor.” U.S. Department of Labor. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Mar. 2013.

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