Last Updated: Thursday, 24 July 2014, 13:56 GMT

2005 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Bulgaria

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 29 August 2006
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2005 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Bulgaria, 29 August 2006, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48d748de3c.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.

Selected Child Labor Measures Adopted by Governments
Ratified Convention 138     4/23/1980
Ratified Convention 182     7/28/2000
ILO-IPEC Associated Member
National Plan for Children
National Child Labor Action Plan
Sector Action Plan (Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking)

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

Statistics on the number of working children under age 15 in Bulgaria are unavailable.688 Most working children are employed at home, in family-owned shops, and on family farms, some engaging in heavy or dangerous labor.689 Children also work in restaurants, shops, hotels, agriculture, forestry, transportation, communications, construction, periodical sales, and industry, particularly in small-scale textiles.690 The majority of paid child labor occurs in the commercial and services sector.691 Child labor is one of many problems associated with poverty. In 2001, 4.7 percent of the population of Bulgaria were living on less than USD 1 a day.692

Children are involved in prostitution and drug trafficking in Bulgaria, sometimes working with organized crime rings.693 Trafficking in children is a problem, with Bulgaria serving primarily as a transit country, including for girls trafficked for prostitution and sexual exploitation.694 Bulgarian women and children are trafficked from Central Asia Moldova, Romania, Russia, and Ukraine into Western, Southern and Eastern Europe.695 To a lesser extent, Bulgaria serves as a country of origin for trafficking victims, and there are cases of internal trafficking.696 The majority of trafficked children come from the poorest families, many within the ethnic minority Roma community.697 Most young girls who are trafficked are lured by "get rich quick" promises at the ages of 14 and 15 when they cannot afford to continue their schooling beyond the required, basic education.698 However, no official statistics on trafficking of children are available.699

Under its Constitution and the National Education Act of 1991, education is free and compulsory up to the age of 16.700 Bulgaria traditionally places high value on education and literacy, contributing to its relatively competitive educational system.701 Children typically start school at the age of 6 or 7,702 and gender inequality in education is generally not a problem.703 Rural and Roma children tend to have low attendance and high dropout rates.704 Roma children also attend segregated schools offering inferior education.705

In 2002, the gross primary enrollment rate was 100 percent and the net primary enrollment rate was 90 percent.706 Gross and net enrollment ratios are based on the number of students formally registered in primary school and therefore do not necessarily reflect actual school attendance. Primary school attendance statistics are not available for Bulgaria.707

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The Constitution protects employees from discrimination, forced labor, and hazardous working conditions.708 The Government of Bulgaria is generally committed to children's welfare, but is seriously constrained by budgetary limitations.709

The Labor Code sets the minimum age for employment at 16 years,710 but children ages 13 to 16 years may engage in light work and perform certain jobs with government approval.711 Children younger than 16 years must undergo a medical examination to receive government approval.712 Children under 18 are permitted to work only reduced hours and are prohibited from hazardous, overtime, and night work.713 Amendments to the Criminal Code in 2004 stipulate 6 months of imprisonment and a fine of 500 Leva (USD 335) for illegally employing children under 18 years, and 1 year imprisonment and a fine of 1000 Leva (USD 670) for illegally employing children under 16 years.714 The Family Code establishes legal protections for children working in family businesses, including situations when a parent "jeopardizes the personality, upbringing, health or property of the child."715 The Child Protection Act prohibits the involvement of children in activities that might harm their development.716 It was amended in 2003 to strengthen protections for adopted children or children deprived of the care of their families pursuant to Article 20 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.717 An Ordinance for the Elimination of Child Labor that provides annual allowances for children and students was approved in August 2004.718 Since 1999, the Government of Bulgaria has submitted to the ILO a list or an equivalent document identifying the types of work that it has determined are harmful to the health, safety or morals of children under Convention 182 or Convention 138.719 The minimum age for compulsory and voluntary military service is 18.720

There is a trafficking provision in the Bulgarian Criminal Code and witness protection legislation that covers victims of trafficking.721 The Bulgarian Law on Combating the Illegal Trafficking in Human Beings covers children and mandates the creation of a national commission to coordinate and construct policy on trafficking.722 The Anti-trafficking Commission held its first meeting in December 2004.723 The penalty for trafficking a minor is 2 to 10 years of imprisonment and up to 10,000 Leva (USD 6670).724 However, the law contains gaps in regard to the victim's well-being and overall situation. These gaps are impossible to assess given the lack of reliable information on the trafficking of women and children.725 There is also a substantial lack of space in shelters established for temporary housing of victims.726

The Ministry of Labor and Social Policy's (MLSP) Chief Labor Inspectorate enforces all labor laws, including those concerning child labor.727 According to the US Department of State, child labor laws are generally well-enforced in the formal sector.728 However, official corruption hampers enforcement of antitrafficking efforts.729

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

In 2002, Bulgaria adopted a National Action Plan against the Worst Forms of Child Labor that focuses on education and new legislation.730 The government maintains an Action Plan against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children,731 a National Strategy for Children on the Street,732 and an Anti-Trafficking Task Force within the Ministry of Interior (MOI).733 On March 22, 2005, the Bulgarian government issued a Memorandum of Understanding with the ILO, establishing a Child Labor Unit within the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy.734 The Child Labor Unit will coordinate child labor issues and develop a national child labor database.735 Bulgaria also implemented a National Anti-Trafficking Strategy in February 2005.736

Bulgaria is a member of the Southeast European Cooperative Initiative (SECI) and has participated in regional anti-trafficking efforts through SECI's Regional Center for Combating Transborder Crime, an organization that promotes cooperation among law enforcement authorities.737 In cooperation with the government, the IOM supports six counter-trafficking projects in Bulgaria, including regional efforts to provide mental health assistance to victims of trafficking.738 In May 2005, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, of which Bulgaria is a member, adopted a European Convention against Trafficking in Human Beings that focuses on a cooperative framework for the protection and assistance of trafficked persons.739

The government and various NGOs conduct awareness programs and crisis centers for trafficked victims.740 With participation from the government, USAID supports a Rule of Law program to advance judicial reform, anti-corruption, and anti-trafficking efforts.741 IPEC works with the government on a national and regional program that targets the worst forms of child labor.742 The World Bank Group funds a Child Welfare Reform Project that targets child abandonment and monitors sub-projects for street children.743

To increase the attendance of ethnic minorities in public schools, the government and NGOs provide subsidies for school expenses (e.g., school lunches, textbooks, tuition fees, and teaching assistants) and implement busing programs.744 In June 2004, the Ministry of Education and Science announced a Strategy for the Education and Integration of Children and Pupils from Ethnic Minorities for the 2004-2009 period.745 In February 2005, Bulgaria along with eight other eastern European countries, the World Bank, and Open Society Institute launched the Decade of Roma Inclusion Program (2005-2015) for improving the economic status and social inclusion of Roma.746 Moreover, among its Millennium Development Goals, Bulgaria has pledged to achieve universal primary education and to eliminate gender disparity in all levels of education by 2015.747


688 This statistic is not available from the data sources that are used in this report. Reliable data on the worst forms of child labor are especially difficult to collect given the often hidden or illegal nature of the worst forms, such as the use of children in the illegal drug trade, prostitution, pornography, and trafficking. As a result, statistics and information on children's work in general are reported in this section. Such statistics and information may or may not include the worst forms of child labor. For more information on the definition of working children and other indicators used in this report, please see the "Data Sources and Definitions" section of this report.

689 ILO-IPEC, Problems of Child Labor in the Conditions of Transition in Bulgaria: Study project, Sofia, 2000, 32, 36. See also U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2004: Bulgaria, Washington, DC, February 28, 2005, Section 6d; available from http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2004/41674.htm.

690 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Bulgaria, Section 6d. See also ILO-IPEC, Problems of Child Labor, 31, 32.

691 ILO-IPEC, Problems of Child Labor.

692 World Bank, World Development Indicators 2005 [CD-ROM], Washington, DC, 2005.

693 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Bulgaria, Section 6d.

694 Ibid., Section 5. See also U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report, Washington, DC, June 3, 2005; available from http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2005/46613.htm.

695 U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report.

696 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Bulgaria, Section 5. See also U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report.

697 Hamburg Institute of International Economics, EU-Enlargement, Migration and Trafficking in Women: The Case of South Eastern Europe, 247, 2004, 23. Poverty puts many Romani children at risk of begging, prostitution, and other crimes. See U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Bulgaria, Section 5.

698 European Parliament, Trafficking in Women, working paper, Brussels, March 2000, 61.

699 Hamburg Institute of International Economics, EU-Enlargement, Migration and Trafficking in Women, 23. See also UNICEF and OSCE/ODIHR UNHCHR, Trafficking in Human Beings in Southeastern Europe, June 2002, 51; available from http://www.unhchr.ch/women/trafficking.pdf.

700 Constitution of Bulgaria, (1991 [amended 2003. 2005]), Article 53; available from http://www.parliament.bg/?page=const&1ng=en. See also Government of Bulgaria, National Education Act, (1991 [amended 1996]), Articles 6 and 7; available from http://www.bild.net/legislation/docs/8/edu4.html.

701 UNDP, Millennium Development Goals Report for Bulgaria, 2003, 18; available from http://www.undp.bg/en/publications.php?content=yes&ID=2&PHPSESSID=d7032e68416fc971a39a5af00. Bulgaria ranks at the top of the medium human development index. See UNDP, Human Development Report 2004, 2004, 129, 140; available from http://hdr.undp.org/reports/global/2004/.

702 National Education Act, Article 7, para. 2.

703 UNDP, Millennium Development Goals Report, 19.

704 Ibid. See also ILO-IPEC, Problems of Child Labor, 31, 32.

705 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Bulgaria, Section 5. See also Inter Ethnic Initiative for Human Rights Save the Children UK, EveryChild, Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, and Centre for Independent Living, NGO Alternative Report on Bulgaria's Progress Towards EU Accession, 2004, Sofia, October 2004, 13, 15; available from http://www.bghelsinki.org/special/en/2004_NGOAlternativeReport_EN.doc.

706 UNESCO Institute for Statistics, http://stats.uis.unesco.org/TableViewer/tableView.aspx?ReportId=51 (Gross and Net Enrolment Ratios, Primary; accessed December 2005).

707 This statistic is not available from the data sources that are used in this report. Please see the "Data Sources and Definitions" section for information about sources used.

708 Constitution of Bulgaria, Articles 6, 48.

709 Ibid.

710 Government of Bulgaria, Labour Code, (1986 [as amended 2004]); available from http://www.mlsp.government.bg/en/docs/labour/index.htm.

711 Ibid., Articles 301, 302.

712 Ibid., Article 302.

713 No overtime work; night work only between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m.; length of work week not to exceed 40 hours for employees under the age of 18. See Ibid., Articles 113, 137, 140, 147, 304, 305.

714 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Bulgaria, Section 6d.

715 Government of Bulgaria, Family Code, (1985 [amended 1992]), Articles 74-75; available from http://bild.net/legislation/docs/4/civil5.html. See also ILO-IPEC, Problems of Child Labor, 31, 32, 60.

716 Government of Bulgaria, Child Protection Act, (as amended 2003), Article 10, 11; available from http://cis sacp.government.bg/sacp/CIS/content_en/law/item03.htm.

717 U.S. Embassy – Sofia, unclassified telegram no. 1608, August 19, 2003. For text of the Convention, see Convention on the Rights of the Child; available from http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu2/6/crc/treaties/crc.htm.

718 ILO, http://www.ilo.org/dyn/natlex/natlex_browse.home?p_lang=en (Browse by Country: Bulgaria).

719 ILO-IPEC official, email communication to USDOL official, November 14, 2005. A copy of the Government of Bulgaria's list of hazardous work prohibited to minors was requested from the government, but no response was received. See U.S. Department of Labor, "Request for Information on Efforts by Certain Countries to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor," Federal Register 70, no. 141, 43014 (July 25, 2005); available from http://frwebgate4.access.gpo.gov/cgibin/waisgate.cgi?WAISdocID=98311525998+10+0+0&WAISaction=retrieve.

720 CIA, The World Factbook: Bulgaria, September 20, 2005 [cited October 12, 2005]; available from http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/print/bu.html.

721 U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report.

722 Law on Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, (January 1, 2004), Articles 1(a) and 2(a); available from http://www.legislationline.org/data/Trafficking/DOMESTIC_LEGISLATION/bulgaria/Bulgaria_trafficking_law_english.doc.

723 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Bulgaria, Section 5.

724 Ibid.

725 Hamburg Institute of International Economics, EU-Enlargement, Migration and Trafficking in Women, 5-6. 23. 86.

726 Ibid., 86, 97.

727 Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, Basic functions and tasks of the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy of the Republic of Bulgaria, [cited June 1, 2005]; available from http://www.mlsp.government.bg/en/functions/index.htm. See also U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Bulgaria, Section 6d.

728 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Bulgaria, Section 6d. From October 2002 to August 2004, there was a 62 percent increase in the number of inspectors (from 271 to 440 inspectors); In 2004, five regional labor inspectorates identified child labor as a priority. U.S. Embassy – Sofia, unclassified telegram no. 1616, August 24, 2004. See also U.S. Embassy – Sofia, unclassified telegram no. 2498, October 25, 2002.

729 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Bulgaria, Section 5.

730 U.S. Embassy – Sofia, unclassified telegram no. 2498.

731 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Bulgaria, Section 6d. See also U.S. Embassy – Sofia, unclassified telegram no. 1616.

732 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Bulgaria, Section 5. See also U.S. Embassy – Sofia, unclassified telegram no. 1616.

733 Hamburg Institute of International Economics, EU-Enlargement, Migration and Trafficking in Women, 138.

734 U.S. Embassy – Sofia, unclassified telegram no. 1524, August 31, 2005.

735 Ibid.

736 U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report, 73.

737 Hamburg Institute of International Economics, EU-Enlargement, Migration and Trafficking in Women, 25, 138.

738 IOM, Online Project Compendium: Bulgaria, [online] [cited June 1, 2005]; available from http://www.iom.int/iomwebsite/Project/ServletSearchProject.. See also IOM, IOM Counter Trafficking Strategy for the Balkans and Neighboring Countries, January 2001, 4-6; available from http://www.iom.int/en/PDF_Files/other/Balkan_strategy.pdf.

739 Council of Europe, Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings, Council of Europe, [online] n.d. [cited September 30, 2005]; available from http://www.coe.int/T/E/human_rights/trafficking/. Amnesty International, Enhancing the Protection of the Rights of Trafficked Persons; Amnesty International and Anti-Slavery International's Recommendations to strengthen provisions of the July 2004 draft European Convention against Trafficking in Human Beings, Amnesty International, London, September 2004.

740 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Bulgaria, Section 5.U.S. NGOs run a project that uses education to combat child prostitution and trafficking along the Bulgaria-Romania border. BEPS, Combating Human Trafficking: Bulgaria, [online] [cited May 26, 2004]; available from http://www.beps.net/child_labor/labor_bulgaria.htm.

741 The program concludes in 2007. USAID, Bulgaria: The Development Challenge, [online] January 17, 2005 [cited June 1, 2005]; available from http://www.usaid.gov/policy/budget/cbj2005/ee/bg.html.

742 ILO-IPEC, IPEC Action Against Child Labor: Highlights 2004, Geneva, October 2004, 21; available from http://www.ilo.org/public/english/standards/ipec/publ/download/implementation_2004_en.pdf. See also U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Bulgaria, Section 6d.

743 The project concludes in June 2006. World Bank Group, Bulgaria Projects and Programs: Active Projects, [online] 2005 [cited June 1, 2005]; available from http://www.worldbank.bg/external/default/main?menuPK=305471&pagePK=141143&piPK=141103&theSitePK=305439.

744 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Bulgaria, Section 5.

745 The program concludes in 2009. Save the Children UK, NGO Alternative Report, 13, 14.

746 See World Bank Group, Summary Report: Launch of the Int'l. Decade of Roma Inclusion (2005-2015), Sofia, February 2, 2005; available from http://www-wds.worldbank.org/servlet/WDS_IBank_Servlet?pcont=details&eid=000090341_20050228111322. The program also established a Roma Education Fund, which has raised over 42 million USD.

747 UNDP, Millennium Development Goals Report, 18. See also World Bank Group, http://devdata.worldbank.org/external/CPProfile.asp?SelectedCountry=BGR&CCODE=BGR&CNAME=Bulgaria&PTYPE=CP (World Development Indicators Database: Bulgaria Country Profile).

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