Child labour in Europe: persisting challenge

Commissioner for Human Rights
headline Strasbourg 20/08/2013
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© 2013 Volunteer Weekly

© 2013 Volunteer Weekly

 "Many observers thought that child labour was a thing of the past in Europe. However, there are strong indications that child labour remains a serious problem and that it might be growing in the wake of the economic crisis. Governments need to monitor this situation and to use the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the European Social Charter as guidance for preventive and remedial action", says Nils Muižnieks, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, in his latest Human Rights Comment published today.

Vulnerable people are always disproportionately affected in times of economic down-turn. The link between declining economic growth and increasing child labour is therefore no surprise. With the recession many European countries have drastically cut social aid. As unemployment soars, many families have found no other solution than sending their children to work.

Hazardous and dangerous jobs

The prevalence of child labour in developing countries is a well-known problem – according to the International Labour Organisation today more than 250 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 work. In trying to map the situation in Europe, however, my Office has found that information is very sparse. In fact, it seems to be a taboo subject. But we have been able to accumulate enough information to see a grim picture.

According to UNESCO, in Georgia 29 percent of children aged 7-14 are working. In Albania the figure is 19 percent. The government of the Russian Federation has estimated that up to 1 million children may be working in the country. In Italy, a study of June 2013 indicates that 5.2 percent of children younger than 16 are working. But from most other countries no data are yet available. (more...)