2003 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Estonia

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

From 1998 to 2000, the Government of Estonia participated in a European Commission anti-trafficking initiative called the STOP Project.[1629] The second phase of the project, "Minors in the Sex Trade," promoted networking among law enforcement officials in Estonia and other countries in the region.[1630] From 2001 to 2002, Estonian government ministries, migration authorities and police[1631] participated in a regional IOM project to gather information and raise awareness about the problem of trafficking, and strengthen the capacity of the Baltic governments to prevent trafficking.[1632] In early 2002, with funding from USDOL, ILO-IPEC conducted a study on children involved in drug trafficking in Estonia.[1633] In cooperation with the Baltic governments, the Nordic Council of Ministers initiated an anti-trafficking campaign in the region, including Estonia, for the period of 2002 to 2003.[1634] The government has developed a National Strategy for Child Protection through the year 2008 that includes a national social welfare program for children and their families who need social care and educational support for at-risk children. Children considered most at-risk are street children.[1635]

The Government of Estonia has a system of benefits that provides support to vulnerable families, and it operates a school meal program.[1636] The Ministry of Education and Research supports a variety of youth vocational training projects under the country's "Youth Work" program.[1637]

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 indicated that youths aged 16 to 17 made up 0.2 percent of the total labor force, and no exploitation of children was noted.[1638] Children are engaged in prostitution in Estonia.[1639] Estonia is a source country for women and girls trafficked internally and abroad for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation.[1640] There is also evidence that children are involved in drug trafficking, and there is a connection between drug use and children engaged in prostitution.[1641] In 1999, an estimated 100 to 200 children were homeless and living on the streets in Estonia.[1642]

The Constitution states that education is compulsory and free for children,[1643] and the Education Act of 1992[1644] and the Basic Schools and Upper Secondary Schools Act of 1993 establish that children must attend school for a period of nine years.[1645] In 2000, the gross primary enrollment rate was 103 percent, and the net primary enrollment rate was 97.6 percent.[1646] Primary school attendance rates are not available for Estonia.[1647] While enrollment rates indicate a level of commitment to education, they do not always reflect children's participation in school.[1648] In 1999, 99.2 percent of children enrolled in primary school reached grade 5.[1649]

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The Employment Contract Act sets the minimum age for employment at 18 years, although children 15 to 17 years may work with the consent of a parent or guardian, and children 13 to 15 years may work with the consent of a parent or guardian and a labor inspector.[1650] Children under 18 years may not perform hazardous or dangerous work.[1651] The Working and Rest Time Act limits the hours that children under 18 years old can work and prohibits overtime or night work.[1652] The Constitution prohibits forced or bonded labor.[1653] Articles 133 and 134 of the Penal Code, which took effect on September 1, 2002, criminalize enslavement and abduction, and provide for penalties from 2 to 12 years imprisonment if the crime is committed against a person less than 18 years of age.[1654] 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.[1655]

The Legal Chancellor supervises guaranteeing the rights of the child in Estonia.[1656] Under the Child Protection Act of 1992, the Ministry of Social Affairs coordinates the protection of children in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, the National Police Board and other state agencies.[1657] The Ministry of Social Affairs and the Ministry of Internal Affairs are responsible for matters relating to trafficking.[1658] The Occupational Health and Safety Act gives enforcement responsibilities for labor laws to the Labor Inspector Service.[1659] In 2002, the Government of Estonia adopted Regulation 253, delegating investigation of the worst forms of child labor as defined by ILO Convention 182 to the National Police Board.[1660] The government effectively enforces minimum age laws through inspections[1661] and has investigated trafficking crimes under the 2002 Penal Code. As of December 2003, however, one trafficking case has been turned over by police to the courts.[1662]

The Government of Estonia has not ratified ILO Convention 138, but ratified ILO Convention 182 on September 24, 2001.[1663]

[1629] Marjut Jyrkinen, Leena Karjalainen, and Lauri Hollmén, An Introduction to the Project Minors in the Sex Trade, 2001; available from http://www.stakes.fi/sexviolence/stop/STOPintro.doc.

[1630] The project facilitated the investigation of criminal cases, one of which occurred in Estonia, by the Government of Finland against Finnish nationals accused of buying sex from minors abroad. See Ibid. To date, however, the framework has not been used specifically for anti-trafficking cooperation. See U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report – 2003: Estonia, Washington, D.C., June 2003; available from http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2003/21275.htm#estonia.

[1631] IOM, Prevention of Trafficking in Women in the Baltic States: Final Report to Donors, no date, cover page; available from http://www.focus-on-trafficking.net/pdf/Trafficking_SIDA_report_Final.p….

[1632] Ibid., 2. The information-gathering phase was funded by the Governments of the United States, Finland, and Sweden, and the awareness-raising campaign was funded by the Government of Sweden. See IOM, Trafficking in Women and Prostitution in the Baltic States: Social and Legal Aspects, press release, Vilnius, October 15, 2001; available from http://www.iom.fi/press-release/pr-2001-oct-trafficking.pdf. See also IOM, Prevention of Trafficking in Women in the Baltic States. See also IOM, Online Project Compendium, [online] [cited August 29, 2002]; available from http://www.iom.int/iomwebsite/Project/ServletSerachProject?event+detail….

[1633] 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. See 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; available from http://www.ilo.org/public/english/standards/ipec/simpoc/estonia/ra/drug….

[1634] For background information on the Nordic Council's efforts, see Nordic Council and Council of Ministers, Nordic Gender Equality: Projects, [online] November 20, 2002 [cited July 15, 2003]; available from http://www.norden.org/gender/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, [online] [cited July 15, 2003]; available from http://www.nmr.ee/women/.

[1635] U.S. Embassy-Tallinn, unclassified telegram no. 1295, August 22, 2003.

[1636] UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child: Estonia, CRC/C/15/Add.196, Geneva, January 31, 2003, 1.

[1637] Ministry of Education and Research, Estonian Youth Work Development Plan for 2001-2004, July 3, 2001, 4-5; available from http://www.hm.ee/.

[1638] Government of Estonia, Estonian National Report on Follow-up to the World Summit for Children, 2000, UNICEF, 2000, Section: "Economic exploitation and child labour"; available from http://www.unicef.org/specialsession/how_country/index.html.

[1639] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2002: Estonia, Washington, D.C., March 31, 2003, Section 5; available from http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2002/18363.htm. According to a NGO study conducted among the police of Tallinn in 2002, 6 percent of prostitutes are 15 years old and younger, and 20 percent are 16 to 18 years old. See 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 http://www.nmr.ee/women/presentations/IirisPettaiIngl.pdf.

[1640] Victims are trafficked internally from the northeast region of the country to the capital of Tallinn. Victims are trafficked abroad to Finland, Sweden, the other Nordic countries, Germany and Italy. See U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report: Estonia.

[1641] Nelli Kalikove, Kurbatova, and Talu, Estonia Children and Adolescents Involved in Drug Use and Trafficking: A Rapid Assessment, 57.

[1642] The same report stated that an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 children were evading school and lacked parental care, and were "on the streets." Child homelessness is more problematic in the cities of Tallinn, Tartu, and Narva. See Government of Estonia, Estonian National Report, Section: "A child deprived of the family". 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, January 2003. In October 2003, the Director of Tallinn's Child Support Center said there was sufficient room in municipally-supported "safe houses" for at-risk youth to meet demand. See Postimees Daily article, October 13, 2003, as cited in U.S. Embassy-Tallinn, electronic communication to USDOL official, February 20, 2004.

[1643] Constitution of the Republic of Estonia, Article 37; available from http://www.legaltext.ee/en/andmebaas/ava.asp?m=022.

[1644] UNESCO International Bureau of Education, World Data on Education, [database online] April 2000 2001 [cited October 10, 2003]; available from http://nt5.scbbs.com/cgi-bin/om_isapi.dll?clientID=650185&COUNTRY=eston…{DD3}&softpage=PL_frame.

[1645] Government of Estonia, Basic Schools and Upper Secondary Schools Act of 1993, Article 17; available from http://www.legaltext.ee/en/andmebaas/ava.asp?m=025.

[1646] World Bank, World Development Indicators 2003 [CD-ROM], Washington, D.C., 2003.

[1647] One report indicates that approximately 97 percent of eligible children attended school in 2002. See U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2002: Estonia, Section 5.

[1648] For a more detailed discussion on the relationship between education statistics and work, see the preface to this report.

[1649] World Bank, World Development Indicators 2003.

[1650] 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. Compliance and enforcement of this Act is the responsibility of the Labour Inspectorate. See Republic of Estonia Employment Contract Act of 1992, Article 2, 7 and 145; available from http://www.legaltext.ee/en/andmebaas/ava.asp?m=025. See also Embassy of Estonia II Secretary Miko Haljas, letter to USDOL official, November 26, 2001.

[1651] 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. See Embassy of Estonia II Secretary Miko Haljas, letter, November 26, 2001.

[1652] Working and Rest Time Act of January 24, 2001, Articles 5, 8, 11, 15, 20-22; available from http://www.legaltext.ee/en/andmebaas/ava.asp?m=025.

[1653] Constitution of the Republic of Estonia, Article 29.

[1654] Government of Estonia, Penal Code, (June 6, 2001); available from http://www.legaltext.ee/en/andmebaas/ava.asp?m=022.

[1655] Ibid., Articles 175-79.

[1656] U.S. Embassy-Tallinn, unclassified telegram no. 1295. The Legal Chancellor is an independent official appointed by the parliament for a term of seven years, who serves as ombudsman and judicial reviewer to ensure the protection of constitutional rights and freedoms of individuals in Estonia. See Estonia Legal Chancellor, What is the Legal Chancellor?, [online] 2003 [cited September 1, 2003]; available from http://www.oiguskantsler.ee/index.php?lang=eng&main_id=462,527&PHPSESSI….

[1657] Government of Estonia, Estonian National Report.

[1658] Elmar Nurmela, Trafficking in Women in the Baltic States: Legal Aspects, IOM Regional Office for the Baltic and Nordic Countries, Helsinki, 2001, Annex II.

[1659] Government of Estonia, Occupational Health and Safety Act, 1999, Article 25 and 26; available from http://www.legaltext.ee/en/andmebaas/ava.asp?m=0221. See also ILO, Review of Annual Reports: The Effective Abolition of Child Labor, Estonia, GB.277/3/2, Geneva, March 2000; available from http://www.ilo.org/public/english/standards/relm/gb/docs/gb277/pdf/d2-a….

[1660] U.S. Embassy-Tallinn, unclassified telegram no. 1295. Estonian Ministry of Social Affairs officials consider that through Regulation No. 253 of August 8, 2002 and Regulation No. 214 of July 1992 Estonia has taken effective measures required under ILO Convention 182. See U.S. Embassy-Tallinn, electronic communication.

[1661] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2002: Estonia, Section 6d.

[1662] Another five cases involving 15 individuals were under investigation. See U.S. Embassy-Tallinn, electronic communication.

[1663] ILO, Ratifications by Country, in ILOLEX, [database online] [cited July 21, 2003]; available from http://www.ilo.org/ilolex/english/newratframeE.htm.


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