Farmworkers Face Gaps in Protection and Barriers to Benefits

Gao ID: T-HRD-91-40 July 17, 1991

GAO discussed the impact of federal laws, regulations, and programs on farmworkers' living and working conditions, focusing on: (1) gaps in legal and regulatory provisions to protect farmworkers and the adequacy of federal agency enforcement of such provisions; (2) barriers to farmworkers' access to federal programs which provide financial or medical assistance, training, or employment services; and (3) the availability of data on farmworkers. GAO noted that: (1) the Environmental Protection Agency acknowledged that its regulations inadequately protect agricultural workers from the harmful effects of pesticide exposure; (2) in 1990, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration found violations in 69 percent of field sanitation inspections; (3) fines federal managers assess are too low to deter health and safety violations; (4) federal child labor law and regulations allow children to work at a younger age in agriculture than in other industries; (5) the supply of housing for migrant farmworkers falls far short of demand; (6) migrant workers who do qualify for Medicaid face access barriers because of state residency requirements; (7) many agricultural employers do not report or underreport farmworkers' earnings to the Social Security Administration; (8) principal federal training programs for farmworkers cannot serve the current farmworker population due to insufficient funds; and (9) comprehensive, reliable data on farmworkers were unavailable or inconsistent, making it difficult to evaluate living and working conditions or to determine the best course of action to take to improve quality of life.

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