Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed a measure this week easing child labor protections in the state.

Under the law, the Youth Recruitment Act of 2023, children under the age of 16 do not have to obtain a permit from the Division of Labor to get a job. They will no longer need to obtain an employment certificate, which verifies their age, describes their job and work hours, and includes written consent from a parent or guardian. Sanders signed the bill into law Tuesday.

Alexa Henning, Sanders’ communications director, said the permit requirement had placed an «arbitrary burden on parents» who needed government permission for their son to get a job.

“All of the child labor laws that actually protect children still apply and we expect companies to comply as they now must,” Henning wrote in a statement to NBC News.

The move comes as the Biden administration has sought to crack down on child labor following reports in the media, including NBC News, about the employment of minors, sometimes in grueling and dangerous jobs. It also comes as several other states consider legislation to undo child labor laws.

Last month, the Department of Labor announced that it had found more than 3,800 children working at US companies in violation of federal law. More than 100 children, some as young as 13, worked dangerous jobs at night cleaning slaughterhouses for Packers Sanitation Services Inc., one of the nation’s largest food sanitation companies, the Labor Department said. Some of them used «caustic chemicals to clean sharp saws,» the department said. ten of the violations It happened in Arkansas.

Since 2018, there has been a 69 percent increase in the number of children illegally employed by businesses, the Labor Department said.

Critics of the new Arkansas measure argue that it would remove protections at a time when companies are increasingly exploiting children.

“It increases the likelihood that children will end up in hazardous work,” said Reid Maki, director of child labor advocacy at the National Consumers League. He added that the increase in reported violations of the child labor law makes it a «very strange time» for Arkansas to weaken protections.

“Just because there’s a labor shortage doesn’t mean you can turn your back on almost 100 years of child labor laws and start hiring kids, especially for dangerous jobs, which is what we’re seeing happening more and more across the country. Maki said. «That doesn’t make any sense.»

Andrew Collins, a Democrat in the Arkansas House of Representatives, said the bill «increases the risk of abuse and violations of other child labor laws» by removing the requirement for parental consent for a child to work. .

“It was presented as sort of a priority for parents, but I think it takes them out of the process,” Collins told NBC News.

Other states are also considering legislation to dismantle protections against child labor. One bill Moving forward in the Iowa legislature would allow 14-year-olds to do some work in meat freezers and coolers and allow children under 16 to work up to six hours a day while school is in session. It would also exempt companies from liability if a student in a work-based study program becomes sick, injured or dies due to the company’s negligence. He minnesota bill would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to work construction jobs.

Earlier this year, Republican leaders in Congress selected Sanders to deliver the party’s response to President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address. Sanders previously served as press secretary for former President Donald Trump.