Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 July 2014, 14:54 GMT

2002 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Russia

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 18 April 2003
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2002 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Russia, 18 April 2003, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48d748a83c.html [accessed 24 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Government Policies and Programs to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor

The Government of Russia is an associated member of ILO-IPEC.3007 In January 2000, the government began working with ILO-IPEC on a three-year project to rehabilitate working street children in St. Petersburg.3008 ILO-IPEC officials conducted awareness raising workshops for local government officials, organized an action committee that developed recommendations for city government action,3009 established teacher training in schools with high dropout rates, and directed families with at-risk children to existing services.3010 In 2001, Russia's Ministry of Labor worked with ILO-IPEC to conduct studies on the situation of street children in Moscow and the Leningrad Oblast region.3011 In 2002, President Vladimir Putin called for immediate measures to address the problem of working street children, and the Ministry of Labor established a hotline for reporting cases of child abuse, including the problem of street children.3012 Also in 2002, the Governor of St. Petersburg, a trade union federation and employers signed an agreement aimed at eliminating the worst forms of child labor.3013 The government has developed a National Plan of Action on children's rights,3014 and has a federal commission headed by the Minister of Labor that focuses on child labor and education issues.3015

The government is strengthening the education system to ensure that children have access to high quality education.3016 Its education strategy is contained in the Education Law and the Federal Program for Education Development, which emphasize curricular diversity, management decentralization, diversification of education financing, and the development of monitoring mechanisms.3017 In 2001, the government received World Bank financing for an Education Reform Project to improve general and vocational education and to enhance public educational spending.3018 A World Bank project that started in 1997 is addressing social science education and textbook availability.3019

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

Recent statistics on the number of working children under the age of 15 in Russia are unavailable. The breakup of the Soviet Union and the transition to a market economy increased poverty levels in Russia, and in 2002, the World Bank found that children have a higher poverty rate than the population as a whole.3020 There are reports that economic downturn and an increase in the divorce rate in Russia have led to an increase in the number of street children in the country.3021 Estimates of the number of street children range from 100,000 to 150,000, with possibly 3 million additional children at risk of living on the streets.3022 A 2001 ILO-IPEC survey estimated there were between 30,000 and 50,000 street children in Moscow alone.3023 Children work in retail services, apprenticeships, as couriers, trash collectors, and deliverers.3024 Children also work washing cars, in garages, trading and selling at kiosks and markets, and loading and guarding goods.3025 Children in Russia are engaged in prostitution and are trafficked for sexual exploitation from Russia to various European countries, the Middle East and North America.3026 Street children are involved in pornography.3027 There are also reports of children fighting alongside rebels in Dagestan and Chechnya.3028

Primary education is free until age 15, but the Law on Education allows a child to finish school at the age of 14 with parental and government approval.3029 Most families pay additional fees for books and school supplies.3030 There are no primary school enrollment or attendance rates available for Russia, but truancy is reportedly a growing problem.3031

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The new Labor Code sets the minimum age for regular employment at 16 years, and regulates the working conditions of children under 18, including bans on overtime, hazardous work and night work.3032 Children may work in apprenticeship and internship programs at age 14 and 15 with parental approval, as long as such programs do not threaten their health and welfare.3033 The Constitution prohibits forced labor.3034 Article 151 of the Criminal Code prohibits coercion of a minor to engage in prostitution and Article 135 of the Code prohibits acts of perversion against children under the age of 14; Article 135 has been used to prosecute child pornographers.3035 There are no laws against trafficking in persons.3036

The Ministries of Labor and the Interior are responsible for child labor enforcement but do not effectively enforce these laws due to a lack of resources3037 and the informal nature of most child labor in Russia.3038 The Minister of Labor reported that 12,000 child labor violations were registered and 16,500 criminal cases opened in connection with child labor violations in 2001.3039 The government reported to the ILO that children were often engaged in harmful and hazardous work, and that 2,300 child labor inspections identified and addressed 8,000 violations in 1999.3040 Child labor inspections are complaint-driven.3041

The Government of Russia ratified ILO Convention 138 on May 3, 1979, but has not ratified ILO Convention 182.3042


3006 ILO, Ratifications by Country, in ILOLEX, [database online], [cited September 5, 2002]; available from http://www.ilo.org/ilolex/english/newratframeE.htm.

3007 ILO-IPEC, IPEC Action Against Child Labour: Highlights 2002, Geneva, 2002, 16.

3008 U.S. Consulate- St. Petersburg, unclassified telegram no. 1504, July 17, 2002.

3009 The action committee consists of trade union, police, academic, employer and NGO representatives. See Ibid.

3010 The project also provides rehabilitation for young girls living on the street and food, health care, shelter, and other necessities to street children. U.S. Embassy – Moscow, unclassified telegram no. 15215, October 2002.

3011 Ibid.

3012 Ibid.

3013 Ibid.

3014 Valentina Matvienko, Deputy Prime Minister, Statement at the United Nations Special Session on Children, May 10, 2002, [cited September 18, 2002]; available from http://www.un.org/ga/children/russiaE.htm. See also U.S. Embassy – Moscow, unclassified telegram no. 15215.

3015 In addition to government efforts to assist children at risk of working or living on the street, USAID is working with international and NGOs on an "Assistance to Russian Orphans" project that seeks to prevent child abandonment, promote policy change and increase public awareness on the problems of orphans. U.S. Embassy – Moscow, unclassified telegram no. 15215.

3016 World Bank, Education Innovation Project, staff appraisal report, Washington, D.C., May 6, 1997, 6, [cited September 18, 2002]; available from http://www4.worldbank.org/sprojects/Project.asp?pid=P008825.

3017 Ibid., 6.

3018 World Bank, Education Reform Project, project appraisal document, Washington, D.C., April 30, 2001, 4, [cited September 18, 2002]; available from http://www4.worldbank.org/sprojects/Project.asp?pid=P050474.

3019 World Bank, Education Innovation Project, staff appraisal report, 7.

3020 World Bank, Memorandum of the President of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the International Finance Corporation to the Executive Directors on a Country Assistance Strategy of the World Bank Group for the Russian Federation, Report No: 24127-RU, Washington, D.C., May 14, 2002, 1 and 3, [cited September 19, 2002]; available from http://www.worldbank.org.ru/eng/group/strategy3/.

3021 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2001: Russia, Washington, D.C., March 4, 2002, 1745-52, Section 5 [cited December 20, 2002]; available from http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2001/eur/ 8331.htm. See also ILO, Working Street Children in Moscow (Draft), Moscow, March 2002.

3022 World Bank, Memorandum of the President, 4. See U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2001: Russia, 1745-52, Section 5, which estimates that 50,000 children a year run away from home. See also UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child: Russian Federation, CRC/ C/15/Add.110, United Nations, Geneva, November 1999, 3, [cited September 19, 2002]; available from http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/(Symbol)/f60a0928c30f787980256811003b8d5d?Opendocument.

3023 ILO, Working Street Children, 17.

3024 Ibid., 29.

3025 "Little Slaves of A Big City," St. Petersburg Express (St. Petersburg), September 2, 2002. See Institute for Global Ethics, As Russian Economy Crumbles, Children Join Ranks of Working Poor, Ethics Newsline (citing BBC news report), 1999 [cited September 17, 2002]; available from http://www.globalethics.org/newsline/news11.html.

3026 See U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2001: Russia, 1752-60, Sections 6d and 6f. See also U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report – 2002: Russia, Washington, D.C., June 5, 2002, 88 [cited December 18, 2002]; available from http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2002/10682.htm.

3027 Irina Sandul, "Russia's Trade in Child Pornography," The Russia Journal, February 1, 2002, [cited September 17, 2002]; available from http://www.trj.ru/index.hem?obj=5472&sid=8112922301749522702010298. According to Sandul, Russia's age of legal consent is 14, allowing a child pornography industry to be established using children aged 15-16. See "Duma Votes to Tighten Child Sex Laws," The Russia Journal (citing Reuters), June 27, 2002, [cited September 17, 2002]; available from http://www.trj.ru/index.htm?obj=8326&sid=8112922301749522702010298.

3028 Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, "Russia Federation," in Global Report 2001, 2001, [cited September 18, 2002]; available from http://library.amnesty.it/cs/childsolderis.nsf. See also UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding Observations, 3.

3029 Although no law exists to make education compulsory, the Constitution holds parents responsible for ensuring their children receive basic education. U.S. Embassy – Moscow, unclassified telegram no. 15215.

3030 Ibid.

3031 Ibid.

3032 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2001: Russia, 1752-60, Section 6d. This labor code came into force on February 1, 2002. See U.S. Department of State official, electronic communication to USDOL official, November 29, 2002.

3033 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2001: Russia.

3034 Constitution of the Russian Federation, Article 37, [cited September 17, 2002]; available from http://www.friendspartners.org/oldfriends/constitution/russian-constitution.html.

3035 U.S. Embassy – Moscow, unclassified telegram no. 15215.

3036 Donna M. Hughes, Trafficking for Sexual Exploitation: The Case of the Russian Federation, June 2002, 24, [cited September 19, 2002]; available from http://www.iom.int/documents/publication/en/mrs%5F7%5F2002.pdf. See also U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2001: Russia, 1752-60, Section 6f.

3037 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2001: Russia, 1752-60, Section 6d.

3038 U.S. Embassy – Moscow, unclassified telegram no. 15215.

3039 Oksana Yablokova, "50,000 Children in City Workforce," The Moscow Times, 2002, copyright 2002 by The Independent Press [cited September 17, 02]; available from http://www.globalmarch.org/clns/daily-news/may-2002/ may-17-2002-2.htm.

3040 ILO, Individual Observations of the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations: Individual Observation Concerning Convention No. 138, Geneva, 2001, [cited September 17, 2002]; available from http://www.ilo.org/ilolex/english/newcountryframeE.htm.

3041 U.S. Embassy – Moscow, unclassified telegram no. 17925, September 2000.

3042 ILO, Ratifications by Country, in ILOLEX, [database online], [cited September 17, 2002]; available from http://www.ilo.org/ilolex/english/newratframeE.htm.

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