Last Updated: Tuesday, 31 May 2016, 12:25 GMT

2001 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Latvia

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 7 June 2002
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2001 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Latvia, 7 June 2002, available at: [accessed 1 June 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 Latvia has initiated a National Program for Preventing Sexual Violence Against Children for 2000-2004,[1421] and it is cooperating with the Baltic and Eastern European governments to combat regional organized crime groups that engage in trafficking or prostitution.[1422] In 1995, the Ministry of Education and Science established a Children's Rights Protection Center to coordinate regional children's assistance centers and provide teaching and informative materials on legal instruments pertaining to the rights of children.[1423] In addition, several international organizations have programs that support children. The UNDP has a Project for the Prevention of Adolescent Trafficking to promote a coordinated government strategy to prevent trafficking,[1424] and the World Bank Group is providing the Government of Latvia with a loan to implement an Education Improvement Project.[1425]

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

Statistics on the number of working children under the age of 15 in Latvia are unavailable. However, the commercial sexual exploitation of children is known to exist.[1426] Prostitution by both boys and girls is a significant problem, particularly in rural areas, near borders, and in Riga.[1427] An estimated 12 to 15 percent of prostitutes in Latvia are between the ages of 8 and 18.[1428] Girls from Latvia are trafficked to countries in Western Europe, including Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Spain, Greece, Italy, and UK for the purposes of sexual exploitation.[1429] There are also reports of child involvement in the production of pornography.[1430] A 1997 UNICEF study estimated that 24 percent of children who live on the streets do so in order to make money through various activities, including begging.[1431]

Education is free and compulsory until the age of 15, or through the completion of primary school.[1432] In 1996, the gross primary enrollment rate was 95.8 percent, while the net primary enrollment rate was 89.5 percent.[1433] The number of children who do not attend primary school is increasing.[1434] In rural areas, a number of schools have been closed.[1435]

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The Latvian Labor Code establishes 15 years as the minimum age for general employment, although children over 13 years of age may work in light jobs that are not harmful to their health and morals, if they do not interfere with school, and if the child has permission from a parent or guardian.[1436] According to the Labor Code, children under 18 years may not be employed in jobs requiring heavy labor, night-time or overtime work, or under conditions that are hazardous to health or morals.[1437] The Constitution prohibits forced labor, unless it is required by a court order or in the case of a disaster.[1438] Approved in May 2000, Article 165 of the Criminal Code prohibits sending a person to a foreign country for the purpose of sexual exploitation and serves as Latvia's primary anti-trafficking legislation.[1439] The Cabinet of Ministers also adopted Regulations on the Restriction of Prostitution in 1998, which prohibits juveniles from engaging in prostitution.[1440] Additionally, the Criminal Code prohibits the procuring, inducing, or compelling of a minor to commit prostitution.[1441]

Latvia has not ratified ILO Convention 138 or ILO Convention 182.[1442]

[1421] UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 44 of the Convention: Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, Latvia, CRC/C/15/Add. 142 at para. 5, (Geneva, January 26, 2001) [hereinafter Concluding Observations].

[1422] Latvia is involved with the Special Task Force of the Baltic Sea States, which combats regional organized crime, holds training on related issues, and coordinates the protection of witnesses and victims. Latvia has also signed bilateral agreements with Belarus, Estonia, Lithuania, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Moldova, Poland, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan to implement mutual legal assistance measures. See Kamenska, "Trafficking in Women," at 14.

[1423] UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 44 of the Convention: Initial Reports of States Parties Due in 1994, Latvia, CRC/C/11/Add. 22 (Geneva, March 22, 2000) [hereinafter Initial Reports of States Parties], para. 30.

[1424] Although their awareness-raising effort does not have a direct connection to government agencies, UNICEF is working throughout Latvia to educate teachers about children's rights and to provide them with training materials for their students. See Project for the Prevention of Adolescent Trafficking, project document submitted in electronic correspondence from Laura Kauppila, UNDP Latvia Project Manager, to USDOL official. See also UNDP, Project for the Prevention of Adolescent Trafficking, at on 11/16/01, and UNICEF, UN Convention on the Founding Principles of Child Rights for the Education System in Latvia, at on 11/16/01.

[1425] The World Bank's 5-year, USD 40 million project will provide school building and structural repairs, improve the quality of education, and strengthen the capacity of the Ministry of Education and Science. See "Latvia – Education Improvement Project," World Bank Group Project Information Document [hereinafter "Education Improvement Project"], at on 11/16/01.

[1426] Concluding Observations. See also Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2000 – Latvia (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of State, 2001) [hereinafter Country Reports 2000] at and Swedish International Development Agency, Looking Back, Thinking Forward: Fourth Annual Report on the Implementation of the Agenda for Action Adopted at the First World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in Stockholm, Sweden, August 28, 1996 [hereinafter Looking Back, Thinking Forward], 131.

[1427] Looking Back, Thinking Forward], 132.

[1428] Country Reports 2000 at Section 5.

[1429] There are no official estimates of the number of trafficking cases. However, Swiss police reported that nearly half of the registered prostitutes in one of the country's 27 cantons were Latvian. In addition, a Swedish foundation reported that the majority of trafficked women in both Sweden and Denmark were from the Baltic States. See Kamenska, "Trafficking in Women", 13, 14. See also Gillian Caldwell, Steven Galster, and Nadia Steinzor, "Crime and Servitude: An Exposé of the Traffic in Women for Prostitution From the Newly Independent States," Global Survival Network, 1997, 10.

[1430] Looking Back, Thinking Forward at 132.

[1431] An undetermined number of children live in the streets in Latvia. According to a government report, research indicates that about 15 percent of child beggars were forced to work by their parents. See Concluding Observations at para. 49. See also "Street Children Program," King Baudouin Foundation, at on 11/16/01, and Initial Reports of States Parties, para. 237.

[1432] Initial Reports of States Parties at para. 38.

[1433] World Development Indicators for 2001 (Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2001) [CD-ROM].

[1434] Initial Reports of States Parties at para. 202. See also Country Reports 2000 at Section 5

[1435] School infrastructure has severely deteriorated. Few investments have been made in teacher training. The financial burden of maintaining and improving schools has fallen heavily on municipalities rather than on the central government, which is burdening local communities with excessive costs. See Concluding Observations at para. 43. See also "Education Improvement Project".

[1436] The Council of Ministers approves a list of jobs that are prohibited for children under age 15. See Latvia Labour Code, amended March 17, 1992 [hereinafter Latvia Labour Code], Section 180, as found on Natlex database at on 11/16/01.

[1437] The Council of Ministers also approves the list of heavy or hazardous jobs. A state labor inspectorate was established by the government to monitor work conditions. If a violation of child labor laws should occur, the government agency will investigate the report and, if necessary, forward the case to state courts. See Latvia Labour Code at Sections 182, 184, 186. See also U.S. Embassy-Riga, unclassified telegram no. 1381, October 2001.

[1438] Constitution of Latvia, February 15, 1922, Article 106, at on 11/15/01.

[1439] Because it is relatively new, the effectiveness of Latvia's trafficking legislation has not yet been tested. In general, fear of retribution from traffickers makes victims extremely reluctant to testify. In addition, victims report dissatisfaction with police handling of cases, which often prevents them from seeking immediate police assistance. Article 152, which prohibits illegal deprivation of liberty, and Article 153, which prohibits kidnapping, can also be used to prosecute trafficking. See Latvia Criminal Code, Articles 152, 153, 165, as cited in Kamenska, "Trafficking in Women," at 3, 4, 6, 18.

[1440] Anhelita Kamenska, "Trafficking in Women – Latvia," Latvian Center for Human Rights and Ethnic Studies (IOM: 2001) [hereinafter Kamenska, "Trafficking in Women"], at 4.

[1441] Latvia Criminal Code, Articles 164, 165, as cited in Kamenska, "Trafficking in Women," at 5.

[1442] ILOLEX database: Latvia at on 11/19/01.

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