Hundreds of thousands of children under age 18 are working in agriculture in the United States. Under a double standard in US federal law, children can toil in the fields at far younger ages, for far longer hours, and under far more hazardous conditions than all other working children. Worse, even the weak protections in US law are rarely enforced.
Fields of Peril is based on more than 140 interviews, including 70 current and former child workers who worked in 14 states across the United States. For too many children, farmwork means an early end to childhood, long hours at exploitative wages, and risks to their health and sometimes their lives. Agriculture is one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States; child farmworkers suffer work-related fatalities at over four times the rate of other young workers. Yet children can do hazardous work in agriculture from which they would be banned in any other industry. The long hours and demands of farmwork result in shocking drop-out rates from school. Without a diploma, child workers are left with few options besides a lifetime of farmwork and the poverty that accompanies it. Human Rights Watch calls on the US Congress to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act to apply the same protections for children working in agriculture as already apply to all other working children.