2015 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor
- Strengthened legal frameworks to expand minimum age protections for children.
- Improved criminal law enforcement in sectors where children are most vulnerable.
- Implemented social programs to address poverty, including conditional cash transfer programs.
Challenges and Existing Gaps:
- Weak legal frameworks in countries that do not specify the types of hazardous work prohibited for children.
- Insufficient human and financial resources allocated to the enforcement of child labor laws.
- Unequal access to education for minorities and other disadvantaged children.
Regional statistics on child labor do not exist for Europe and Eurasia. However, children in Europe and Eurasia are engaged in child labor, predominantly in agriculture and street work. Children are also engaged in the worst forms of child labor, including in commercial sexual exploitation and forced begging, each sometimes as a result of human trafficking. In 2015, 1 of the 20 countries covered in the report received an assessment of Significant Advancement: Montenegro. Countries in the region made meaningful efforts to implement social programs to address poverty, including conditional cash transfer programs, strengthened legal frameworks to expand minimum age protections for children, and improved criminal law enforcement in sectors where children are most vulnerable. Despite these gains, exploitive child labor persisted due to gaps in hazardous work prohibitions, inadequate resources allocated to the enforcement of child labor laws, and unequal access to education for minorities and other disadvantaged children. In addition, three countries—Armenia, Georgia, and Ukraine—made meaningful efforts in a few or more relevant areas, but failed to remedy a regressive or significantly detrimental law that was established in previous years that delayed advancement in eliminating the worst forms of child labor. Armenia and Georgia’s previous repeal of laws establishing a labor inspectorate left these countries continuing to lack a functioning labor inspectorate to monitor, inspect, and enforce child labor laws, and Ukraine introduced by law bureaucratic restrictions on the State Labor Service that effectively imposed a moratorium on inspections, including for child labor.
During the year, new efforts were made in three countries to collect statistics on child labor and expand minimum age protections for children. Both Armenia and Georgia conducted National Child Labor Surveys and Ukraine analyzed the data collected during a 2014 survey. Countries also made efforts to strengthen laws related to child labor. Albania raised the minimum age for light work from 14 to 15, and both Armenia and Turkey introduced legislation regulating children’s work in the entertainment industry. In addition, several countries strengthened protections against the worst forms of child labor in their criminal codes. Bosnia and Herzegovina increased penalties for human traffickers, while Macedonia increased the minimum sentence for individuals paying for the services of child victims of trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation. In addition, Moldova expanded the powers of the Ombudsman for Children’s Rights to monitor the legislative process and appeal legislative proposals that could be damaging to children’s rights.
In 2015, European and Eurasian governments also took steps to target law enforcement efforts in sectors where children were most vulnerable. Several governments accomplished this by focusing criminal law enforcement efforts on identifying and assisting children involved in street work. Law enforcement agencies in Kosovo and Moldova conducted nation-wide operations to identify child beggars who were victims of human trafficking. Similarly, Macedonian police and social workers worked together in mobile patrols to remove 78 children from street work and refer them to social services. A number of governments in the region also built the capacity of their law enforcement mechanisms to address the needs of children. The Government of Montenegro trained prosecutors and social workers on addressing child trafficking and child begging. Law enforcement and judicial officials in Albania received training on working with children in the justice system, including protecting child victims and investigating and prosecuting criminal offences against children. More than 100 judges in Ukraine also received training on working with victims of human trafficking and child labor, including procedures on protecting victims and witnesses, and understanding the vulnerability of victims.
A few governments in the region launched policies to protect children from the worst forms of child labor. Both Bosnia and Ukraine adopted national action plans to improve the prevention and prosecution of human trafficking crimes, as well as the provision of services to trafficking victims. Albania also developed the Action Plan for the Identification and Protection of Children in Street Situations, which defines the roles of various government agencies in preventing the exploitation and abuse of children working on the street. Recognizing that economic instability leaves children more vulnerable to the worst forms of child labor, many countries in the region also supported social programs to address poverty in 2015. Macedonia and Serbia both supported a conditional cash transfer program for vulnerable children in schools, while Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kosovo, and Moldova provided financial assistance to low-income families. Georgia and Ukraine also provided non-financial incentives, such as free textbooks and lunches, to keep low-income students in schools.
There are a number of challenges that impede progress in addressing child labor in the region. Anguilla, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the British Virgin Islands, Montenegro, Serbia, and Ukraine do not have laws that clearly and comprehensively define the types of hazardous work prohibited for children, which limits the capacity of labor inspectors to identify and remove children from exploitative labor situations. In Azerbaijan, children without written labor contracts are excluded from protection and, similarly, in Turkey, legal protection for children working in small agricultural enterprises and shops, and in domestic work, is lacking.
There are also challenges related to the enforcement of child labor laws in Europe and Eurasia. The number of labor inspectors in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Ukraine is insufficient to provide adequate labor force coverage according to the ILO’s recommendation. Labor inspectorates in Kosovo, Moldova, and Serbia lack funding for training, equipment, and transportation for inspectors, which compromises the quality of inspections. Georgia has lacked a mechanism to enforce child labor laws since its labor inspectorate was abolished in 2006, and a pilot labor monitoring program established in 2015 did not include child labor violations within its purview. In Ukraine, bureaucratic restrictions requiring that the State Labor Service seek formal approval from the Cabinet of Ministers before conducting most inspections effectively imposed a moratorium on inspections in 2015. Similarly, following the Government of Armenia’s restructuring of its labor inspectorate into the State Health Inspectorate in 2014, confusion surrounding the mandate of the agency resulted in a moratorium on inspections in 2015, leaving Armenia without a mechanism to enforce child labor laws.
Across the region, refugee and migrant children; children who have been internally displaced; and children who belong to ethnic minority groups, such as the Roma, continued to experience challenges in accessing education. Roma children lacking birth registration or identity documents in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Ukraine were sometimes prevented from enrolling in schools. In Turkey, despite the Government’s efforts to expand education access for school-aged Syrian refugees, many refugee children living in urban areas remained unable to access education due to language barriers or an inability to pay for tuition and transportation to school. Irregular migrants and asylum-seeking children, many of whom are Syrian, also faced difficulties enrolling in schools in Serbia. Other common barriers to education in Europe and Eurasia include discrimination, lack of support for children with disabilities, and distance to schools. Children who do not attend school are particularly vulnerable to exploitation in the worst forms of child labor.
 For one country, information on the number of labor inspectors was unknown. For three territories, which do not have a child labor problem, this information is not reported.
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