Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muižnieks warns that child labour is a serious problem in Europe, warning of possible rapid growth of the problem in countries suffering from economic crisis, such as Greece, Cyprus, Italy and Portugal.
“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,” said Muižnieks.
“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,” he added.
He cites figures from the International Labour Organisation, saying that today more than 250 million children globally, aged from five to 14-years-old years old, are working.
According to the data released from UNESCO, the reality of child labour in Europe is grim, he said.
In Georgia 29% of children aged from seven to 14 are working and in Albania this figure is 19%. In Russia around one million children are working and in Italy the 5.2% of children under the age of 16 are working.
In Bulgaria underage children are working up to 10 hours daily at tobacco industries and in Moldova directors of school and agriculture consortiums have signed agreements for the pupils to work in the harvest.
Commissioner Muižnieks is ‘deeply concerned’ about the fact that children who are forced to work are deprived of an education.
“This only perpetuates the cycle of poverty. Choosing education over work for children is the only way for a country to develop.” He said most countries have adequate legislation but fail to monitor actual practices.
“Authorities should carefully evaluate the potential impact on child labour caused by budgetary cuts in education and training,” said Muižnieks.
“They should also evaluate the impact on child labour of cuts in social policies and support to families: the main cause for children having to work is poverty. Labour inspection agencies should be in a position to do their work adequately.”