During the Industrial Revolution, poor children worked full time to help support their families. As young as 4 years old, children worked in factories under dangerous conditions. Children would perform all sorts of jobs including working on machines, selling newspapers, breaking up coal and chimney sweeps. The children received little pay or no pay at all in exchange for room and board. Children earned 10-20 percent of what an adult could earn for the same job.
Some businesses preferred children as they were cheap, worked hard and could work on jobs that adults couldn’t. Other businesses treated the children no better than slaves. They would be locked up, and forced to work long hours.
Due to the dangerous working conditions, children lost limbs or fingers on high-powered machinery. Working in mines with low ventilation, they developed lung diseases. In the United States, there were over 750,000 children under the age of 15 working in 1870.
A real reform effort to regulate and put an end to child labor began in the early 1900s. Many businesses were opposed to efforts to stop child labor because they provided cheap labor. In 1938, the Fair Labor Standard Act was passed placing some limitations on child labor, set minimum wage, and put limits on how many hours an employee should work.
Source: Industrial Revolution: Child Labor
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