Iowa became the latest state to turn back child labor protections on Friday, when Republican Governor Kim Reynolds signed a new bill allowing Iowa adolescents to work more jobs for longer hours.
Insider previously reported that under the new law, 14- and 15-year-olds may now participate in “light” manufacturing (without machinery) and 16- and 17-year-olds may serve alcohol until 11 p.m. on summer evenings with parental consent.
“With this legislation, Iowa joins 20 other states in providing tailored, common-sense labor provisions that allow young adults to develop their skills for the workforce,” ABC News reported. Reynolds stated in a declaration.
Last month, Iowa’s unemployment was under 3%.
Rep. Dave Deyoe, the bill’s sponsor in the House, told the Des Moines Register that youth employment leads to “less poverty, money for future education, less delinquent behavior, experience in the workplace and access to mentors and role models, and finally, access to careers that may mean a more successful future.”
However, the chief attorney for the US Department of Labor, Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda, criticized bills like Iowa’s last month, calling it “irresponsible for states to consider loosening child labor protections.”
Vox reported Such laws, according to Republican legislators, provide “a simple solution” to workforce personnel issues. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which according to the World Health Organization has killed over 1,127,000 Americans since 2020, businesses have reported a growing labor shortage.
The bill is one of ten that have been introduced or enacted in the past two years, according to the Economic Policy Institute, that target minimum ages for certain professions, the number of hours minors are permitted to work, and the industries in which they are permitted to work.
Each of the governors of Iowa, Arkansas, New Hampshire, and New Jersey have signed bills introduced in their states. Only the governor of New Jersey, Phil Murphy, is a Democrat.
Governor Reynolds’s representatives did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
The decision by the governor of Iowa to repeal child labor laws appears to be a response to business owners who claim they cannot find enough laborers. In April, the unemployment rate in Iowa was 2.7%, as reported by KUAZ.
Arkansas’ unemployment rate was 2.8%, New Hampshire’s was 2.1%, and New Jersey’s was 3.5%, making New Jersey the only state that has recently scaled back child labor protections with a higher unemployment rate than the national average of 3.4%.