FEWER VIOLATIONS of state child labor laws is certainly a good thing (“Citations drop for child work violations”, Page A1, April 29), yet those seeking more enforcement are ignoring the real reasons for the drop. Bad public policy has caused the employment rate of teenagers to plummet.
Today there are only half as many teenagers working as in 1999. Having one of the country’s highest minimum wages is certainly one deterrent to hiring a teen when more seasoned and productive older workers are seeking the same jobs.
But having antiquated and red tape-laden child labor laws which still require doctor permits (for 14- and 15-year olds) and work permits (for 16- and 17-year olds) — rules that simply no longer exist in other states — shuts the door on many teens from even being considered.
Add to that the pressure on enforcers to take “gotcha” actions — levying heavy fines if a teenager simply makes a mistake by clocking out 5 minutes late — and it is no wonder far too many teenagers will be out on the street this summer with no job opportunities.
We need a serious discussion on how we can get more teenagers employed in this state, because there certainly is more risk to their future today than there was when twice as many of them had jobs.