someone who is over 18 years old (in the United States), and may take on a variety of responsibilities in the workforce that a minor may not.
An adult is someone who is of legal age to gain full autonomy. Adults are able to advocate for themselves and make legally binding decisions without the interference or the approval of others. These can include medical decisions, job-related decisions, and many other personal decisions, such as the choice to get married. It is worth noting that the definition of adult changes based on different countries and/or different cultures around the world. Some cultures consider their youth adults when they hit certain benchmarks, such as bar mitzvah in the Jewish faith. Laws of specific countries may overrule cultural or religious “coming of age” benchmarks in the recognition of when one is an adult.
Adults are the primary work force in most developed countries. There are laws and regulations regarding when young people may join the workforce and what job duties they can perform. You can find a brief history below of the differentiation between children and adults in the workforce and the creation of labor laws that govern hiring and working conditions for those who are not yet legal adults.
It is easier to hire an adult because they can complete their own paperwork without the approval or signature of a guardian. Minors may require limited hours or be restricted in the times they are allowed to work (not during a school day, only until a certain curfew at night). There are also some jobs that adults are able to do that minors can not. Despite foodservice and hospitality being a common sector for younger people in search of work, an employee cannot legally serve alcohol until they are 18 years of age. Minors under the age of 18 are also not allowed to obtain a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) in most states, barring them from jobs in transportation until they are legally an adult.
Example of Adult
A man comes in to apply for a job in your company, and upon checking his ID, you recognize he is 18 years old. At this age, he can fill out his application paperwork on the spot. Once he agrees, you can check his credit and criminal background history without additional approval. If you decide to hire him, you are then able to have him fill out his tax documents and other hiring paperwork without additional support. There are likely no restrictions on his ability to perform the job duties should he otherwise be qualified.
History of Adults in the Workforce
In the age of the industrial revolution, there was an explosion of new work and jobs available to any able-bodied person. While most of the industry prior had involved farming or family businesses, there were suddenly new opportunities to create items in factories because of new technology. Factory work did not require a great knowledge base, but rather a significantly higher number of workers to keep machinery and production lines working. The promise of jobs drew people to the locations of the factories, resulting in the expansion of cities.
In order to meet the demands of consumers for the new goods factories were creating, they sought help in any form that they could. Children were often hired at the factories where their parents worked. They were able to earn money and help support their families, who were often quite poor; however, these children were subjected to horrific working conditions. Machinery in the factory was dangerous, and often unreliable. At times, when machines broke, the children were asked to climb into the machine to diagnose or fix the problem since they had much smaller bodies. Younger workers were paid pennies for a full days’ work, and they were sometimes expected to work 16-20 hour days with extremely limited breaks, if any at all.
These working conditions resulted in tragedies across developing countries that led to the creation of labor unions, which helped promote fair working conditions for adults, but also pushed for child labor laws. These laws, despite changing throughout the years and varying between states and countries, continue to govern the age at which minors may legally begin work, the types of jobs in which they are allowed to gain employment, and the conditions under which they may work.