Inside Catholic has a great article on the antiquated child labor laws.
Let's say you want your computer fixed or your software explained. You can shell out big bucks to the Geek Squad, or you can ask -- but you can't hire -- a typical teenager, or even a pre-teen. Their experience with computers and the online world is vastly superior to most people over the age of 30. From the point of view of online technology, it is the young who rule. And yet they are professionally powerless: They are forbidden by law from earning wages from their expertise.You can read the rest of the article here. I found the piece to be even more enlightening considering that a a school in Georgia is now paying students to study!
Might these folks have something to offer the workplace? And might the young benefit from a bit of early work experience, too? Perhaps -- but we'll never know, thanks to antiquated federal, state, and local laws that make it a crime to hire a kid.
Pop culture accepts these laws as a normal part of national life, a means to forestall a Dickensian nightmare of sweat shops and the capitalist exploitation of children. It's time we rid ourselves of images of children tied to rug looms in the developing world. The kids I'm talking about are one of the most courted of all consumer sectors. Society wants them to consume, but law forbids them to produce.
You might be surprised to know that the laws against "child labor" do not date from the 18th century. Indeed, the national law against child labor didn't pass until the Great Depression-- in 1938, with the Fair Labor Standards Act. It was the same law that gave us a minimum wage and defined what constitutes full-time and part-time work. It was a handy way to raise wages and lower the unemployment rate: simply define whole sectors of the potential workforce as unemployable.