Many people today think that child labor in Europe must not exist anymore. For such a developed area of the world, dependency on children for work seems both outdated and absurd. However in reality, child labor still maintains a hold in Europe.
According to UNESCO, 29% of children from age 7 to 14 in the country Georgia are working. Similarly, in Albania, 19% of children of that age group work. Additionally, an estimated 1 million children are laborers in Russia. Even in Italy, 5.2% of children under the age of 16 are working. There are still millions of other unreported cases of child labor across the continent.
Many of these working children in Europe work highly dangerous jobs in agriculture, construction, or small factories. In Bulgaria, child labor is fairly common in the tobacco industry, some children working up to 10 hours a day. Reports from Moldova also reveal that school directors and agricultural farm cooperatives often sign contracts that require students to work for the harvest. Reports of long hours and hard work also come from children in Portugal and even the U.K.
Work in these industries often involves use of hazardous machinery and equipment, extremely heavy loads and dangerous chemicals. Moreover, like all working children across the world, such hard labor puts each of Europe’s working children in positions of abuse and exploitation. Particularly at risk are accompanied children of migrants from developing countries.
There is speculation that austerity policies in Europe have devastated living standards so much that child labor has returned in greater force. Countries badly affected by this economic downturn and austerity include Greece, Italy, and Portugal, amongst many others. A recent article in the French Newspaper Le Monde highlights the rise of child labor in Europe. The article uses an example of how thousands of children in the Italian region of Naples have quit school to find jobs in order to feed families. It cites reports from a local government that suggested that 54,000 children left education in the year between 2005 and 2009. Of these children, 38% were less than 13 years old.
The case of these Italian children leaving school points out the desperate plight of children affected by high rates of unemployment and economic difficulty. With austerity has come decreased access to welfare benefits for the poor. Thus children in poverty are required to work harder and at a younger age to support families. Moreover, child labor is not simply an Italian question. Child labor is a problem is that all of Europe must face in the advent of economic crises. Moreover, it is a cyclical problem.
The more children work at a younger age, the more unlikely that it is that they return to education systems, perpetuating the cycle of poverty. Child labor is real and it thrives even in the most unlikely places of Europe. Most importantly, it is an issue worth addressing by both governments and individuals alike.
– Grace Zhao
Sources: World Socialist Web Site, Human Rights Comment