Child Labor and Forced Labor Reports
In 2022, North Macedonia made minimal advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. The Parliament of North Macedonia adopted the new Law on Compensation of Victims of Violent Crime which provides financial, medical, and psychosocial support for victims of crimes, including children. Additionally, in 2022 investigators and prosecutors from the Ministry of the Interior received trainings related to child labor and juvenile justice from the Academy for Judges and Prosecutors. However, children in North Macedonia are subjected to the worst forms of child labor, including in commercial sexual exploitation, sometimes as a result of human trafficking, and in forced begging. Additionally, the law’s minimum age protections do not apply to children who are self-employed or working outside formal employment relationships.
Table 1 provides key indicators on children’s work and education in North Macedonia. Data on some of these indicators are not available from the sources used in this report.
|Working (% and population)||5 to 14||18.8 (Unavailable)|
|Attending School (%)||5 to 14||97.6|
|Combining Work and School (%)||7 to 14||20.6|
|Primary Completion Rate (%)||93.4|
Source for primary completion rate: Data from 2018, published by UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2022. (1)
Source for all other data: International Labor Organization’s analysis of statistics from Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 6 (MICS 6), 2019. (2)
Based on a review of available information, Table 2 provides an overview of children's work by sector and activity.
|Agriculture||Farming,† including in production of tobacco (4)|
|Services||Street work, including vending small items, cleaning vehicle windshields, scavenging, and begging (4,7)|
|Categorical Worst Forms of Child Labor‡||Commercial sexual exploitation, sometimes as a result of human trafficking (3,5-7)|
|Forced begging (4,7,9,10)|
|Forced domestic work (3,6,7)|
|Forced labor as wait staff and dancers in restaurants, bars, and nightclubs (4,8,11)|
‡ Child labor understood as the worst forms of child labor per se under Article 3(a)–(c) of ILO C. 182.
† Determined by national law or regulation as hazardous and, as such, relevant to Article 3(d) of ILO C. 182.
Most children involved in child labor in North Macedonia engage in street work, with the majority from the Roma, Balkan Egyptian, and Ashkali ethnicities. (3,4,6,9) Child trafficking victims in North Macedonia are usually girls, between the ages of 12 and 18, who have been subjected to commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor in restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. (6,10-12) Roma girls are also victims of trafficking for forced marriages in which they are subjected to sexual and labor exploitation. (5,8,9,13,14) Migrant children from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Syria, Pakistan, and other states continue to transit through the country and are vulnerable to human trafficking for labor and commercial sexual exploitation. (8,15)
The Ministry of Labor and Social Policy (MLSP), schools, and civil society organizations offer assistance to Roma children who have difficulty accessing education due to a lack of birth registration and identity cards, which are required for attending school in North Macedonia. (4,10) However, the government continues to face challenges in meeting the educational needs of Roma children due to an ongoing shortage of qualified teachers who can provide instruction in Romani. (14,17)
North Macedonia has ratified all key international conventions concerning child labor (Table 3).
|ILO C. 138, Minimum Age||✓|
|ILO C. 182, Worst Forms of Child Labor||✓|
|UN CRC Optional Protocol on Armed Conflict||✓|
|UN CRC Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography||✓|
|Palermo Protocol on Trafficking in Persons||✓|
The government has established laws and regulations related to child labor (Table 4). However, gaps exist in North Macedonia’s legal framework to adequately protect children from the worst forms of child labor, including a lack of minimum age protections for children who are self-employed or working outside formal employment relationships.
|Standard||Meets International Standards||Age||Legislation|
|Minimum Age for Work||No||15||Article 42 of the Constitution; Sections 63, 66, and 67 of the Labor Relations Act (22,23)|
|Minimum Age for Hazardous Work||Yes||18||Article 265 and Sections 63, 66, and 67 of the Labor Relations Act (23)|
|Identification of Hazardous Occupations or Activities Prohibited for Children||Yes||Rulebook on the Minimum Occupational Safety and Health Requirements for Young Workers (24)|
|Prohibition of Forced Labor||Yes||Article 11 of the Constitution; Articles 418(c) and 418(d) of the Criminal Code (22,25)|
|Prohibition of Child Trafficking||Yes||Articles 418(c) and 418(d) of the Criminal Code (25)|
|Prohibition of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children||Yes||Articles 190–193b of the Criminal Code (25)|
|Prohibition of Using Children in Illicit Activities||Yes||Article 201(4) of the Criminal Code; Article 12(3) of the Law on Child Protection (21,22)|
|Minimum Age for Voluntary State Military Recruitment||Yes||18||Article 62 of the Law on Defense (27)|
|Prohibition of Compulsory Recruitment of Children by (State) Military||N/A*||Article 62 of the Law on Defense (27)|
|Prohibition of Military Recruitment by Non-state Armed Groups||Yes||Articles 122, 322a, and 404 of the Criminal Code (25)|
|Compulsory Education Age||Yes||16||Articles 4, 5, 47, and 172 of the Law on Primary Education; Article 3 of the Law on Secondary Education (28,29)|
|Free Public Education||Yes||Article 44 of the Constitution (22)|
* Country has no conscription (27)
In 2022, the Parliament of North Macedonia adopted the Law on Compensation of Victims of Violent Crime, which contains provisions to support child victims of trafficking. In addition to monetary compensation, individuals covered under the terms of the new law are also provided with access to medical support and additional counseling. (26,27) However, the minimum age for work does not comply with international standards because the law’s minimum age protections do not apply to children who are self-employed or working outside formal employment relationships. (10,17,19) Because the minimum age for work is lower than the compulsory education age, children may also be encouraged to leave school before the completion of compulsory education. (21,22,28)
The government has established institutional mechanisms for the enforcement of laws and regulations on child labor (Table 5). However, gaps exist within the operations of enforcement agencies that may hinder adequate enforcement of their child labor laws.
|Organization/Agency||Role & Activities|
|Ministry of Labor and Social Policy (MLSP)||Collaborates with the police and the Ombudsman's Office to conduct investigations and identify children living and working on the streets, and monitors cases of forced child labor through the Department of Social Inclusion. (3) Refers children to 30 Centers for Social Work throughout the country, which serve to counsel, educate, shelter, and assist children in need and victims of trafficking in persons. (3,27)|
|State Labor Inspectorate||Enforces labor law in the formal sector, including child labor laws, by conducting at least 60 targeted and complaint-based inspections per month. Receives complaints of child labor, can assess fines at any point of the inspection, and refers cases to the Public Prosecutor. (3,19,28)|
|Ministry of the Interior (MOI)||Enforces laws related to hazardous child labor, child trafficking, and commercial sexual exploitation through its special police unit for organized crime, corruption, and human trafficking. (3,22,27)|
Labor Law Enforcement
In 2022, labor law enforcement agencies in North Macedonia took actions to address child labor (Table 6). However, gaps exist within the operations of the State Labor Inspectorate that may hinder adequate labor law enforcement, including the lack of a central database for tracking labor investigations.
|Overview of Labor Law Enforcement||2021||2022|
|Labor Inspectorate Funding||$2,430,000 (5)||$2,510,000 (34)|
|Number of Labor Inspectors||130 (5)||127 (34)|
|Mechanism to Assess Civil Penalties||Yes (23)||Yes (31-33)|
|Training for Labor Inspectors Provided||Yes (5)||Yes (34)|
|Number of Labor Inspections Conducted at Worksite||22,986 (5)||21,032 (34)|
|Number of Child Labor Violations Found||0 (5)||0 (34)|
|Number of Child Labor Violations for Which Penalties Were Imposed||N/A (5)||N/A (34)|
|Number of Child Labor Penalties Imposed that Were Collected||N/A (5)||N/A (34)|
|Routine Inspections Conducted||Yes (5)||Yes (34)|
|Routine Inspections Targeted||Yes (5)||Yes (34)|
|Unannounced Inspections Permitted||Yes (23)||Yes (32,33)|
|Unannounced Inspections Conducted||Yes (5)||Yes (34)|
|Complaint Mechanism Exists||Yes (5)||Yes (34)|
|Reciprocal Referral Mechanism Exists Between Labor Authorities and Social Services||Yes (5)||Yes (34)|
The Labor Inspectorate has an annual plan that determines the number of worksite inspections to be conducted during the calendar year. Unannounced inspections in all sectors are permitted, including on legally registered private farms. (11,28) Inspectors can also inspect private homes and farms with a valid warrant. (9) The MLSP lacks a central database to track labor investigations; however, inspection results are disseminated throughout relevant departments within the MLSP. (12)
Criminal Law Enforcement
In 2022, criminal law enforcement agencies in North Macedonia took actions to address child labor (Table 7). However, gaps exist within the operations of enforcement agencies that may hinder adequate criminal law enforcement, including inadequate investigation planning.
|Overview of Criminal Law Enforcement||2021||2022|
|Training for Criminal Investigators Provided||No (3)||Yes (4)|
|Number of Investigations||15 (5)||11 (4)|
|Number of Prosecutions Initiated||5 (5)||13 (4)|
|Number of Convictions||1 (5)||17 (4)|
|Imposed Penalties for Violations Related to the Worst Forms of Child Labor||Yes (5)||Yes (4)|
|Reciprocal Referral Mechanism Exists Between Criminal Authorities and Social Services||Yes (5)||Yes (4)|
In North Macedonia, legal requirements mandate that public prosecutors receive a 24-month general training, which includes the application of international legal standards. (12) Police investigators normally receive initial training, in addition to training when legislation changes. (34) North Macedonia's National Referral Mechanism enables law enforcement authorities to refer children found to be involved in the worst forms of child labor to social services, including those related to the protection, care, rehabilitation, and eventual reintegration of minor victims. (9,10) In 2022, the Academy for Judges and Prosecutors hosted trainings for investigators and prosecutors on how to properly identify child victims of sexual exploitation, providing alternative justice for child victims of labor abuses, and working with children who have previously entered the criminal justice system. (3,35) During the reporting period, the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) also continued to operate the “Red Button” hotline, a website application to report child abuse, human trafficking, hate crimes, and violence during the reporting period. (10) However, research indicates that some local police officials lacked knowledge on how to identify human trafficking victims and refer them to services. In addition, some members of the police were not aware of the specialized Anti-Trafficking in Persons Task Force (Task Force), even though both bodies are under the MOI. (9,11) Further, the lack of a digital case management system within the MOI has limited the ability to refer suspected human trafficking cases from local police to the Task Force or Public Prosecutor's Office. (10,36)
In 2022, the Public Prosecutor's Office and the MOI discovered seven human trafficking violations that involved children. One case involved trafficking for participation in forced begging. (3) Additionally, authorities identified another eight potential victims of human trafficking. (3)
The government has established a key mechanism to coordinate its efforts to address child labor (Table 8).
|Coordinating Body||Role & Activities|
|National Coordination Body for the Prevention and Countering of Abuse and Neglect of Children||Led by MLSP in conjunction with the Ministries of Interior, Education and Science, Health, and Justice, as well as UNICEF and multiple NGOs around the country. (9,10) During the reporting period, the National Coordination Body continued to support programs to assist vulnerable children, including mobile team visits from social workers, law enforcement authorities, and civil society representatives. (3)|
The government has established policies related to child labor (Table 9). However, policy gaps exist that hinder efforts to address child labor, including the lack of a policy that covers all worst forms of child labor.
|Policy||Description & Activities|
|National Action Plan Against Trafficking in Persons and Illegal Migration (2021–2025)||Focuses on preventing human trafficking by reducing the vulnerability of at-risk populations, improving the identification of victims, and increasing efforts to address human trafficking and forced child begging. (9,32) In 2022, the government prepared its annual operational plan, which included activities to improve victim identification. (3)|
|National Action Plan for Education (2018–2025)||Aims in part to expand inclusive education and improve education for the Roma community. Seeks to increase the number of Roma students in preschools and elementary schools and decrease the number of Roma students who, based on ethnicity, are enrolled in primary schools for children with special needs. (16,34) In 2022, the government continued to implement activities associated with the Plan, including hiring more teachers, providing scholarships for vulnerable Roma children, and fostering inclusion of vulnerable children via adapted coursework for first-time and returnee students, as well as children with special needs. (4)|
|National Strategy (2020-2025) and Action Plan for the National Strategy for Prevention and Countering Abuse and Neglect of Children (2020–2022)||Presented the vision, goals, and strategic approach of the government and the activities to be undertaken annually in the prevention and protection of children from all types of violence. Prepared by the National Coordination Body for Prevention and Protection of Children from Abuse and Neglect. (39) During the reporting period, the government continued to implement activities as designated by the National Action Plan for 2020–2022. (3)|
North Macedonia maintains bilateral agreements to address human trafficking with all its neighboring countries. (35,36)
In 2022, the government funded and participated in programs that include the goal of eliminating or preventing child labor (Table 10). However, gaps exist in these social programs, including the inadequacy of programs to address the full scope of the problem.
|Program||Description & Activities|
|MLSP-Operated and Funded Centers and Shelters†||MLSP-operated and funded programs, sometimes in coordination with NGOs, which provide support and services to victims of human trafficking and vulnerable populations such as street children. Additionally, MLSP provides extensive support for a day center to assist children participating in street work, and funds another center operated by an NGO to provide services, healthcare, and counseling to children working in the streets. (7,11,42) MLSP also funds the Center for Victims of Human Trafficking (operated by NGO Open Gate/La Strada), a transit center for asylum seekers, and the MOI-operated Transit Center for Illegal Migrants. (9) During the reporting period, the MLSP Day Care Centers in Skopje assisted 36 children by providing educational support, healthcare, and counseling to children working in hazardous street settings. Additionally, the government continued to provide financial support for both the Center for Victims of Human Trafficking and the Transit Center for Illegal Migrants, plus two new temporary centers in Kumanovo and Gevgelija that provided assistance to migrants who are transiting through the country without proper legal documents. (3)|
|UNICEF Projects||UNICEF programs that work with the government to provide support to vulnerable children, including Roma and migrant children. (12) In 2022, the government continued to work with UNICEF to implement the Home for Every Child Program and a strategic plan targeting school violence. (12,38,39) UNICEF also facilitated the Early Warning System for Missing Children project in conjunction with the Macedonian Association of Young Lawyers, the NGO Journalists for Human Rights, and EKPAT-Austria. (3)|
|Child Allowance Program†||Government-supported program providing monthly child allowance payments to low-income households and families receiving other forms of government assistance. (9) In 2022, the government continued to provide monthly allowances. (3)|
For information about USDOL’s projects to address child labor around the world, visit https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/ilab-project-page-search
† Program is funded by the Government of North Macedonia.
‡ The government had other social programs that may have included the goal of eliminating or preventing child labor. (3,39-42)
Day centers and other programs continue to serve children forced into begging rings; however, research has determined that gaps remain between some existing social programs and their capacity to serve children considered to be most at-risk for economic exploitation. (7,9)
Based on the reporting above, suggested actions are identified that would advance the elimination of child labor in North Macedonia (Table 11).
|Area||Suggested Action||Year(s) Suggested|
|Legal Framework||Ensure that labor law protections apply to all children, including self-employed children and children working outside formal employment relationships.||2015 – 2022|
|Raise the minimum age for work from 15 to 16 to align with the compulsory education age.||2018 – 2022|
|Enforcement||Provide labor inspectors and the Ministry of Interior with electronic systems to record and share data on inspections.||2009 – 2022|
|Social Programs||Conduct research to determine the activities carried out by children engaged in child labor in order to inform the development of social programs supporting children at highest risk for economic exploitation.||2013 – 2022|
|Increase efficacy of programs dedicated to addressing child labor and ensure that child beggars, especially Roma children, receive the support needed to be removed from street work permanently.||2015 – 2022|
|Reduce barriers to education by increasing the number of teachers who can provide education in the Romani language.||2021 – 2022|
- UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Gross intake ratio to the last grade of primary education, both sexes (%). Accessed March 3, 2022. For more information, please see “Children's Work and Education Statistics: Sources and Definitions” in the Reference Materials section of this report. http://data.uis.unesco.org/
- ILO. Analysis of Child Economic Activity and School Attendance Statistics from National Household or Child Labor Surveys. Original data from Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 6 (MICS 6), 2019. Analysis received March 2022. Please see “Children's Work and Education Statistics: Sources and Definitions” in the Reference Materials section of this report.
- U.S. Embassy- Skopje. Reporting. January 13, 2023.
- International Organization for Migration. The Ghosts of North Macedonia. IOM North Macedonia. October 12, 2020. https://weblog.iom.int/ghosts-north-macedonia
- UNICEF. An Analysis of the Situation of Women and Children: North Macedonia. 2019. https://www.unicef.org/northmacedonia/media/5296/file/Sitan 2019_En.pdf
- U.S. Department of State. Trafficking in Persons Report- 2021: North Macedonia. 2021. https://www.state.gov/reports/2021-trafficking-in-persons-report/north-macedonia/
- Open Gate/La Strada. Challenges in Identification, Protection, and Reintegration of Victims of Human Trafficking. 2020. Source on file.
- U.S. Department of State. Trafficking in Persons Report- 2020: North Macedonia. Washington, D.C., June 25, 2020. https://www.state.gov/reports/2020-trafficking-in-persons-report/north-macedonia/
- U.S. Embassy- Skopje. Reporting. January 12, 2022.
- U.S. Embassy- Skopje. Reporting. January 15, 2021.
- U.S. Embassy- Skopje. Reporting. January 8, 2020.
- U.S. Embassy- Skopje official. E-mail communication to USDOL official. March 19, 2019.
- UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. Periodic Reports of States Parties due in 2017: The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Prepared by Government of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. CEDAW/C/ MKD/6. June 13, 2017. http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/Download. aspx?symbolno=CEDAW/C/MKD/6&Lang=en
- Macedonian National Coalition for the Rights of the Child. Alternative report of non-governmental organizations on the state of children's rights in Macedonia. October 2020. Source on file. http://childrensembassy.org.mk/content/pdf/Megjashi State of Childrens Rights NGO 2020.pdf
- IOM. New Data on Population Movements in the Western Balkans. February 21, 2019. https://rovienna.iom.int/stories/new-data-population-movements-western-balkans
- UNHCR. UNHCR: North Macedonia Refugee/Migrant Children in 2020. June 30, 2020. https://data2.unhcr.org/en/documents/details/77926
- U.S. Department of State. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices- 2020: North Macedonia. Washington, D.C., March 30, 2021. https://www.state.gov/reports/2020-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/north-macedonia/
- Government of North Macedonia. Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia. Enacted: September 8, 1991. https://www.sobranie.mk/content/Odluki USTAV/UstavSRSM.pdf
- Government of North Macedonia. Labour Relations Act, No. 167/15. Enacted: 1993. http://www.mtsp.gov.mk/content/pdf/zakoni/ZRO Precisten 74-15.pdf
- Government of North Macedonia. Rulebook on the minimum occupational safety and health requirements for young workers. Enacted: October 15, 2012. http://www.ilo.org/dyn/natlex/docs/ELECTRONIC/93806/109806 /F-526659420/MKD-93806.pdf
- Government of North Macedonia. Republic of Macedonia Criminal Code. Enacted: November 1, 1996. http://www.pravdiko.mk/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Krivichen-zakonik-integralen-prechisten-tekst.pdf
- Government of North Macedonia. Child Protection Law. Enacted: July 2016. Source on file.
- Government of North Macedonia. Law on Defense. Enacted: 2001. https://www.ilo.org/dyn/natlex/natlex4.detail?p_lang=en&p_isn=99888&p_ country=MKD&p_count=756
- Government of North Macedonia. Law on Primary Education, No. 103/2008. Enacted: 2008. http://www.sonk.org.mk/documents/Zakon za osnovno obrazovanie.pdf
- Government of North Macedonia. Law on Secondary Education, No. 44/1995. Enacted: 1995. http://www.sonk.org.mk/documents/Sredno_obrazovanie_95.pdf
- Government of North Macedonia. Law on the Compensation of Victims of Violent Crimes. 2022.
- Council of Europe. Law on access to state compensation for victims of human trafficking adopted in North Macedonia. November 16, 2022.
- Government of North Macedonia. Law for Supplementing and Changing the Criminal Code. Skopje. December 28, 2018. https://www.pravdiko.mk/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Zakon-za-izmenuvane-i-dopolnuvane-31-12-2018.pdf
- Ministry of Labor and Social Policy. Rights, Services, and Social Protection Measures. https://www.mtsp.gov.mk/uslugi-i-prava.nspx
- Government of North Macedonia. 2018–2020 Strategic Plan for the State Labor Inspectorate. Skopje: Ministry of Labor and Social Policy. 2018. http://www.mtsp.gov.mk/content/word/dokumenti/dokumenti 2018/ strateski_2018_2020.doc
- Government of North Macedonia. Law on Misdemeanors. 2019. Source on file.
- Government of North Macedonia. Law on Labor Inspections. 2015. Source on file.
- Government of North Macedonia. Law on Inspection Oversight. 2019. Source on file.
- U.S. Embassy- Skopje. Reporting. January 15, 2019.
- Academy for Judges and Public Prosecutors. Skopje, North Macedonia. 2022. https://jpacademy.gov.mk/en/
- U.S. Embassy- Skopje. Reporting. February 9, 2021.
- U.S. Embassy- Skopje. Reporting. January 28, 2022.
- Government of North Macedonia. Education Strategy and Action Plan for 2018–2025. Skopje. 2018. http://mrk.mk/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Strategija-za-obrazovanie- ENG-WEB-1.pdf
- Government of North Macedonia. National Strategy to Protect Children from All Forms of Abuse with Action Plan 2020-2022. December 2019. Source on file.
- Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. OSCE supports bilateral co-operation on countering human trafficking between North Macedonia, Bulgaria and Greece. July 3, 2019. https://www.osce.org/mission-to-skopje/424610
- IOM. Meeting on Cooperation in the Fight Against Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling Between Serbia and North Macedonia. July 1, 2022. https://serbia.iom.int/news/meeting-cooperation-fight-against-human-trafficking-and-migrant-smuggling-between-serbia-and-north-macedonia
- U.S. Embassy- Skopje. Reporting. January 12, 2018.
- U.S. Embassy- Skopje official. E-mail communication to USDOL official. February 2, 2018.
- Ministry of Education and Science. Tomsic from the Ministry of Education and Science: Every child is important to us, with a systemic approach we provide quality and inclusive education. December 3, 2021. https://mon.gov.mk/content/?id=4401
- UNICEF. Data Collection on the Situation of Children and Women in North Macedonia. Skopje. 2018. https://www.unicef.org/northmacedonia/press-releases/data-collection-situation-children-аnd-women-country-starting
- Government of North Macedonia. Free child rest and recreation service. 2018. http://www.mtsp.gov.mk/besplatna-usluga-za-odmor-i-rekreacija-na-deca.nspx
- Government of North Macedonia. Increase the capacity for care and upbringing of children. 2018. http://www.mtsp.gov.mk/zgolemuvanje-na-kapacitetite-za-zgrizuvanje-i-vospitanie.nspx
- Government of North Macedonia. Report on the Completed Activities for the Education Strategy 2018–2025 for 2018. February 2019. http://mrk.mk/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Извештај-за-реализирани- активности-од-Стратегија-за-образование-2018-2025-за-2018.pdf.