Media Release  

New paper from Ash Center Fellow and former Labor Department official David Weil on combatting child labor

Download the PDF

Cambridge, MA – In a new policy brief published by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, David Weil, a senior fellow at the Ash Center and a former Labor Department official in the Obama Administration, points to surging child labor violations in the US and asks: “how can this be happening now?”

In his paper, Weil points to several reasons for this marked growth in child labor violations, including the presence of a large pool of unaccompanied minors in the U.S. awaiting asylum decisions; labor shortages arising from the post-pandemic recovery; and the widescale use of “fissured” business models relying on contracted workforces found in most recent cases of child labor violations.

“Upholding child labor laws requires providing the Department of Labor with sufficient resources to undertake its enforcement responsibilities,” argues Weil. In the paper, he notes that despite budget requests from the Obama and Biden administration, Congress has allowed the Labor Department’s capacity to investigate child labor violations to significantly atrophy. In addition to increasing funding for enforcement activities, Weil calls for Congress to strengthen penalties for child labor violators and establish “criminal as well as civil sanctions for cases where there is repeat and willful violations of child labor prohibitions and restrictions.”

About the Author

David Weil served as the Dean of the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University from 2017-2022 and currently is a Professor at Heller and the Department of Economics. In 2014, he was appointed by President Obama as the Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division of the US Department of Labor, where he served until January 2017. He is an internationally recognized expert in employment and labor market policy; regulation; transparency policy and digital empowerment; and the impacts of supply-chain and industry restructuring on employment, work outcomes, and business performance.

About the Ash Center

The Mission of the Roy and Lila Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard Kennedy School is to develop ideas and foster practices for equal and inclusive, multi-racial and multi-ethnic democracy and self-government.


Daniel Harsha
Director of Communications and Strategic Initiatives

Sarah Grucza
Assistant Director of Communication