Child labor, still an important challenge in South East Europe and South Caucasus

Photography credits: Silviu Ghetie

12 June, 2017

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), ratified by almost all countries in the world, includes explicit provisions against economic exploitation of children. Article 32 of the UNCRC prohibits child labor that interferes with a child’s education and is hazardous or harmful to a child’s development. The Article requires that state parties set a minimum age for employment, define hours and conditions for acceptable employment of youth and create enforcement mechanisms to ensure compliance by all relevant actors. Ending child labor is included among the goals of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

On this day, the World Day against Child Labour, we call on all governments, and particularly of those in our region (South East Europe and South Caucasus), to review their policies and practices in order to eliminate child labour through strong prevention mechanisms, and ensure that adequate rehabilitation services are in place to provide all the support needed by children whose rights have been violated.

Child labor is defined as work that is hazardous to a child’s health, education, or physical or mental development. Child labor spans various sectors, including agriculture, manufacturing, quarrying and mining, and domestic service. Too often, it traps children in a cycle of poverty. Too many children in the world still work instead of going to school.

In spite of clear commitments by all governments of the wider Black Sea region to implement in full the UNCRC, including in relation to child labor, actions to prevent and end child labor and economic exploitation remain limited. In order to measure the compliance of governments with the provisions of the UNCRC, World Vision and ChildPact have created a Child Protection Index (CPI).

The following graph presents to what extent each of the countries included in our Index protects its children from economic exploitation, in line with its UNCRC commitments, as measured across 50 indicators specifically focused on the issue of economic exploitation.

There are important differences among the countries included, but crucially, not a single one of them is respecting its legally-binding commitment to implement in full the UNCRC in this respect. Most countries perform relatively well in terms of legislation, but unfortunately, as long as good laws remain only on paper, children remain vulnerable to exploitation.

Looking in detail at each of the CPI indicators on economic exploitation, it is possible to highlight some of the weaknesses of the child protection system in our region.

Heat-map presenting all indicators for Article 32. Green represents full compliance with the UNCRC of a given indicator (score 1), red represents non-compliance (score 0) and orange stands for partial compliance (score between 0 and 1).

The set of indicators uses specific child protection articles from the UNCRC and principles from a systems approach to child protection to review government efforts to protect girls and boys. The Index reviews a country’s efforts to end and prevent violence against children within the following dimensions: Creation of Laws and Policy (L & P), Availability of services at the local level (S&M = System and Mechanisms), Capacity of the public sector to deliver services (CAP), Coordination protocols that link various government actors and services (COORD) and Accountability mechanisms to verify government’s good actions (ACC).   

Some of the countries of the region, in particular Armenia and Georgia, should do more to ensure that relevant legislation is fully compliant with the UNCRC. But even a country such as Romania, which has good scores in the “Law and Policy” section, performs poorly across all indicators of “Capacity”.

All countries have low scores in the “Accountability” sector, pointing in particular at the absence of established and regular mechanisms to monitor and assess the quality of rehabilitation services, be they provided by the government or private actors.

Low scores in the “Coordination” sector (on the right in the graph) point at a problem that is particularly important in contrasting child labor: thorough ccoordination and cooperation between relevant state institutions and other key actors (police, social services, as well as authorities competent for employment, health, and education).

Overall, the CPI highlights that effective child protection requires a holistic approach: having the right legislation in place is only a first step, and does not relieve governments from their commitment to ensure that the UNCRC is thoroughly implemented. Finally, legislation and practices should be able to adapt in order to cope with new developments, such as for example the migration crisis.

Country by country recommendations based on the CPI can be downloaded here:

Albania http://www.childprotectionindex.org/country/albania

Armenia http://www.childprotectionindex.org/country/armenia

Bosnia and Herzegovina http://www.childprotectionindex.org/country/bosnia

Bulgaria http://www.childprotectionindex.org/country/bulgaria

Georgia http://www.childprotectionindex.org/country/georgia

Kosovo http://www.childprotectionindex.org/country/kosovo

Moldova http://www.childprotectionindex.org/country/moldova

Romania http://www.childprotectionindex.org/country/romania

Serbia http://www.childprotectionindex.org/country/serbia