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2002 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Estonia

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 - Estonia, 18 April 2003, available at: [accessed 27 May 2016]
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 Estonia was cooperating with governments in the region, including Finland, Russia, Sweden, and Germany, to implement a European Commission anti-trafficking initiative called the STOP-Project in 2002. This project aimed to develop the means to record and exchange information on international trafficking, uncover the organized crime activity surrounding regional trafficking networks, and explore the social consequences of trafficking and organized prostitution.1363 The project included a component to prevent the commercial exploitation of children.1364

In early 2002, a study on children involved in drug trafficking was carried out by ILO-IPEC SIMPOC with funding from USDOL.1365 In partnership with government agencies, IOM launched a counter-trafficking project aimed at establishing a coordinated system of assistance for trafficking victims from the Baltic Republics.1366 In cooperation with the Estonian Ministry of Social Affairs, the Nordic Council of Ministers has initiated a large-scale anti-trafficking campaign, focused on prevention, for 2002-2003.1367

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

Statistics on the number of working children under the age of 15 in Estonia are unavailable. A 1999 labor survey indicates that employees aged 16 to 17 make up 0.2 percent of the total labor force, and no exploitation of children has been noted.1368 In some instances, children peddle goods and beg on the streets.1369 There are reports that children engage in prostitution,1370 and there have been reports that women and girls are trafficked internally and to Nordic countries and Western Europe.1371 There is also evidence that children are involved in drug trafficking, and there is a connection between drug use and children engaged in prostitution.1372 In 1999, an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 children were found to be in the streets; this estimate includes children who are deprived of parental care and children evading school. However, the number of children without a home and living in the streets is estimated at 100 to 200.1373

The Constitution states that education is compulsory and free for children.1374 The Education Act of 19921375 and the Basic Schools and Upper Secondary Schools Act of 1993 make nine years of basic education compulsory and free for children.1376 In 1998, the gross primary enrollment rate was 101 percent, and the net primary enrollment rate was 96.2 percent.1377

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The Employment Contract Act sets the minimum age for employment at 18 years, although children 15 to 17 years old may work with the consent of a parent or guardian, and children 13 to 15 years old may work with the consent of a parent or guardian and a labor inspector.1378 Children under 18 years may not perform hazardous or dangerous work.1379 The Working and Rest Time Act limits the hours that children under 18 years old can work and prohibits overtime or night work.1380 The Occupational Health and Safety Act gives enforcement responsibilities for labor laws to the Labor Inspector Service.1381 No cases of child labor violations have been submitted to the courts.1382

Articles 133 and 134 of the Penal Code, which took effect on September 1, 2002, criminalize trafficking in persons. The code provides for increased penalties if the crime is committed against a person of less than 18 years of age.1383 The code provides for fines or imprisonment of up to three years for persons found guilty of disposing or aiding minors to engage in prostitution. The code also provides for fines or imprisonment of up to one year for persons found guilty of using minors in the production, manufacture or distribution of child pornography.1384 The Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Social Affairs are responsible for matters relating to trafficking.1385 The Constitution prohibits forced or bonded labor, except in the Defense Forces or alternative service, work required in times of natural disasters or catastrophes, or when fulfilling a court sentence.1386

The Child Protection Act of 1992 is the primary law guiding the protection of children and in all cases, places the child's interests first, and the Ministry of Social Affairs coordinates the protection of children in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, the Police Board and other state agencies.1387

The Government of Estonia has not ratified ILO Convention 138, but ratified ILO Convention 182 on September 24, 2001.1388

1363 European Commission Stop-Project, Building up a Network for Monitoring, Analyzing and Combating Trafficking in Women and Children, [cited August 30, 2002]; available from

1364 UNICEF, Estonian National Report on Follow-up to the World Summit for Children, 2000, [cited August 30, 2002]; available from

1365 The study questioned 40 children and 19 young adults (i.e., 18 years and older) who were either currently involved in or had previously been involved in worst forms of child labor. Nelli Kalikove, Aljona Kurbatova, and Ave Talu, Estonia Children and Adolescents Involved in Drug Use and Trafficking: A Rapid Assessment, ILO-IPEC, Geneva, June 2002, [cited August 30, 2002]; available from

1366 The project takes place in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, and is partnered with the Ministries of Interior, Border Guards, Departments of Investigating Organized Crime and Ministries of Foreign Affairs. IOM, Online Project Compendium, [online] [cited August 29, 2002]; available from ServletSerachProject?event+detail&id+FI1Z045.

1367 For background information on the Nordic Council's efforts, see Nordic Council and Council of Ministers, Nordic Gender Equality: Projects, November 20, 2002 [cited February 5, 2003]; available from projekt/uk/index.asp?lang=6. The first seminar of the Nordic and Baltic countries against trafficking in women took place in May 2002. See Nordic Council of Ministers, First Joint Seminar of the Nordic and Baltic Countries against Trafficking in Women, [cited February 5, 2003]; available from

1368 UNICEF, Estonian National Report.

1369 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2001: Estonia, Washington, D.C., March 4, 2002, 1433-34, Section 6d [cited December 27, 2002]; available from 8247.htm.

1370 Iris Pettai, "Prostitution and Trafficking Women as Assessed by the Tallinn Police" (paper presented at the Joint seminar of the Nordic and Baltic countries, May 29-31, 2002); available from IirisPettaiIngl.pdf.

1371 Statistics on the scope of the child sexual exploitation and trafficking problems are not widely available. In 2002, there were reports that girls had been trafficked internally and abroad for purposes of commercial sexual exploitation. See U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report – 2002: Estonia, Washington, D.C., June 5, 2002, 47 [cited October 8, 2002]; available from

1372 Nelli Kalikove, Kurbatova, and Talu, Estonia Children and Adolescents Involved in Drug Use and Trafficking: A Rapid Assessment, 57.

1373 Child homelessness is more problematic in the cities of Tallinn, Tartu, and Narva. See UNICEF, Estonian National Report. According to a 2000 report of the European Commission, 170 street children were registered in shelters in Estonia and the number of neglected children in the country is 500-600; more than half of these children reside in Tallinn. See U.S. Department of State official, electronic communication to USDOL official, February 2003.

1374 Constitution of the Republic of Estonia, Article 37 [cited August 30, 2002]; available from en/andmebaas/ava.asp?m=0221.

1375 UNESCO International Bureau of Education, World Data on Education, [online] 2001 [cited August 26, 2002]; available from om_isapi.dll?clientID=406181&infobase=inodoc.nfo&softpage=PL_srchframe.

1376 Government of Estonia, Basic Schools and Upper Secondary Schools Act of 1993, Article 17 [cited August 30, 2002]; available from

1377 World Bank, World Development Indicators 2002 [CD-ROM], Washington, D.C., 2002. In the school year 19992000, the primary school attendance rate was 95.3 percent. See U.S. Department of State official, electronic communication.

1378 These allowances are made only if the work will not endanger the health, morality, or education of the minor. The Employment Contracts Act does not extend to work on a family farm, family enterprise, and household work. See Republic of Estonia Employment Contract Act of 1992, Article 2 (1,2) and Article 7 (4) [cited August 30, 2002]; available from

1379 Hazardous or dangerous work includes heavy work, work which poses a health hazard or has dangerous working conditions, underground work, or work which endangers the morality of minors. A complete list of work that is prohibited for minors was determined by the government in regulation no. 214 of July 22, 1992. The following work is prohibited: work involving slaughter or destruction and processing of live animals and birds; work related to exploiting and promoting sex, violence, and gambling; and work where a minor is in contact with alcohol, narcotic, toxic, and psychotropic substances. Miko Haljas, Secretary, Embassy of Estonia, letter to USDOL official, November 26, 2001.

1380 Government of Estonia, Working and Rest Time Act of January 24, 2001, Articles 5, 8, 11, 15, 20, 21, and 22 [cited August 30, 2002]; available from

1381 Government of Estonia, Occupational Health and Safety Act, 1999, Article 29 [cited August 30, 2002]; available from Violations are provided for in the Government of Estonia Criminal Code, para. 135, as cited in ILO, Review of Annual Reports: The Effective Abolition of Child Labor, Estonia, GB.277/3/2, Geneva, March 2000, 272.

1382 U.S. Embassy – Tallinn, unclassified telegram no. 2353, September 2000.

1383 Penal Code, (September 1, 2002); available from Penal_Code_(August%202002).htm.

1384 Ibid., Articles 175-79.

1385 Elmar Nurmela- Polva Police Prefect- President of the Union for Child Welfare, "Research, Information and Legislation on Trafficking in Women in the Estonia," in Trafficking in Women in the Baltic States: Legal Aspects, Research Report: Annex 2, ed. IOM, 2001.

1386 Constitution of the Republic of Estonia, Article 29.

1387 UNICEF, Estonian National Report.

1388 ILO, Ratifications by Country, in ILOLEX, [database online] [cited September 5, 2002]; available from

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