Arkansas Lifts Requirement for Minors to Work


On March 8, 2023, Arkansas Governor Sanders signed the Youth Hiring Act of 2023- a law that removed the requirement for teens under 16 to obtain permission from the Arkansas Division of Labor in order to work. Specifically, the transcript of the bill stated that children under sixteen years of age no longer need to get an employment certificate from the state labor division to work, which also acted as a method of age verification.


Supporters of the bill said it removed an unnecessary and time-consuming part of the employment process for minors, In the editorial Arkansas Just Made Child Labor Easier, And That’s a Good Thing, the Washington Examiner said that the permits provided no obvious benefit to teenagers, and were “just one more redundant piece of paperwork that irritatingly slows legitimate hiring.” Furthermore, Sanders’s communication director maintained that, “All child labor laws that actually protect children still apply and we expect businesses to comply just as they are required to do now” in a statement to NBC News, published in Arkansas Gov. Sanders Signs Measure Rolling Back Child Labor Protections.


On the other hand, those who oppose the bill say that the bill removed crucial protections for minors and would lead to the exploitation of child workers by employers. The AAFC (Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families) claimed in that the passing of the bill made it so “businesses will no longer be required to obtain parental consent to hire 14- or 15-year-olds” and “employers will no longer be required to submit written proof to the Department of Labor to verify that the child is old enough to work and that their hours of work comply with the law” (New Law Will Make Arkansas Youth More Vulnerable To Exploitation).


This bill comes at a time where concerns about child labor law violations seem to be especially prominent, as just this February, a scandal where a sanitation company was found to be illegally hiring over a hundred minors between 13-17 for dangerous jobs, involving the handling of toxic chemicals and dangerous equipment. 


This action by Arkansas to loosen child labor laws is not the first example of such sentiment in the US in recent years- according to the Economic Policy Institute, “Ten states have introduced, considered, or passed legislation rolling back protections for young workers in just the past two years” (Child Labor Laws Are Under Attack in States Across the Country). The proposed and/or enacted bills included revisions extending hours minors were allowed to work and permitting minors to work at jobs previously considered risky, such as construction. The goal seems to be that the eased restrictions would lead to more teens joining the workforce to fill jobs during the US’s labor shortage.


Thus, is the Youth Hiring Act simply a removal of a pointless piece of paperwork that unnecessarily complicated the hiring process amidst worker shortages? Or did it just make employing minors to work in dangerous jobs easier in a time where child labor law violations are already a pressing issue?