2003 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Latvia

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,[2487] and it is cooperating with the Baltic and Eastern European governments to combat regional organized crime groups that engage in trafficking or prostitution.[2488] In 1999, the National Center for the Rights of the Child was restructured to monitor the implementation of legislation on children's rights. Inspectors who focus on children's rights protection work at a municipal level to ensure the coordination of activities.[2489] The government has established an anti-trafficking working group that includes representation from government and NGOs involved in anti-trafficking efforts.[2490]

Several international organizations have programs that support children. UNICEF and the AIDS Prophylaxis Center carried out a program in 1999 to educate and train employees of NGOs and municipalities on how to work with street children.[2491] In October 2001, IOM launched an information campaign aimed at potential victims of trafficking, the press, the general public, and government authorities.[2492] IOM also instituted a counter-trafficking project aimed at establishing a coordinated system of assistance for trafficking victims from the Baltic Republics.[2493] The Children's Unit of the Council of Baltic Sea States supports activities targeting children victimized by sexual exploitation, children living in the streets, and children in institutions.[2494] The National Center for the Rights of the Child started an education program in 1999 called "A Lesson In Children's Rights for Adults" that in part addresses the situation of children outside the system. The program trains court personnel, teachers, and social workers to deal with the growing street children situation.[2495] The World Bank is providing the Government of Latvia with a loan to implement a 5-year Education Improvement Project to provide school building and structural repairs, improve the quality of education, and strengthen the capacity of the Ministry of Education and Science.[2496]

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.[2497] Prostitution by both boys and girls remains a problem.[2498] It is estimated that up to 15 percent of prostitutes in Latvia are children between 8 and 18 years old.[2499] Victims from Latvia are trafficked to countries in Western Europe, including Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Spain, Greece, Italy, and UK for the purposes of sexual exploitation.[2500]

Chapter 8 of the Latvian Constitution establishes that everybody has the right to education.[2501] The Constitution provides for free and compulsory education until the age of 15, or through the completion of primary school.[2502] However, the 1998 Latvian Education Law guarantees equality in education for all residents and defines the mandatory nature of education in Latvia, making acquiring basic education by age 18 mandatory.[2503]

In 2000, the gross primary enrollment rate was 100.3 percent and the net primary enrollment rate was 92.0 percent.[2504] Primary school attendance rates are unavailable for Latvia. While enrollment rates indicate a level of commitment to education, they do not always reflect children's participation in school.[2505] School infrastructure has deteriorated, and 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.[2506] In accordance with Regulation No. 439 (December 28, 1999) of the Cabinet of Ministers, information on children who are not attending school is compiled annually by the Ministry of Education and Science.[2507] The number of children not attending primary school is increasing. In 1997, the Ministry of Education and Science had a record of 1,311 children ages 5 to 15 who were not attending school.[2508] According to the Education Ministry's annual report, 2,512 children did not attend school in 2002.[2509]

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The Labor Code sets the minimum age for general employment at 15 years, although children over 13 years of age may work in light jobs that are not harmful to their health and morals if it does not interfere with school, and if the child has permission from a parent or guardian.[2510] According to the Labor Code, children under 18 years may not be employed in jobs requiring heavy labor, in night time or overtime work, or under conditions that are hazardous to health or morals.[2511] The Constitution prohibits forced labor, unless it is required by a court order or in the case of a disaster.[2512]

Approved in May 2000, Article 165 of the Criminal Law prohibits sending a person to a foreign country for the purpose of sexual exploitation and serves as Latvia's primary anti-trafficking legislation. Trafficking of a minor is punishable with 8 to 15 years of imprisonment.[2513] The Cabinet of Ministers adopted Regulations on the Restriction of Prostitution in 1998, which prohibits juveniles from engaging in prostitution.[2514] In addition, the Criminal Law prohibits the procuring, inducing or compelling of a minor to commit prostitution.[2515]

Article 166 of the Latvian Criminal Law establishes child pornography as an offense. The use of juveniles or minors in the production, manufacturing or distribution of pornographic materials is punishable with up to 12 years imprisonment or a fine.[2516] Possession of pornography is also an offense, and sentences range from fines and confiscation to 1 year of imprisonment for repeated offenses.[2517]

The Latvian Children's Rights Law was ratified in 1998, which guarantees children's rights and freedoms at the national level.[2518] Under the Children's Right's Law and the Criminal Law, the Latvian government began 10 criminal investigations on child abuse during 2002 and 2003.[2519]

The Government of Latvia has not ratified ILO Convention 138 or ILO Convention 182.[2520]

[2487] UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties under Article 44 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, CRC/C/15/Add.142, pursuant to Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child: Latvia, Geneva, January 26, 2001, para. 5.

[2488] 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 Anhelita Kamenska, "Trafficking in Women – Latvia," in Trafficking in Women in the Baltic States: Legal Aspects, Research Report Latvian Center for Human Rights and Ethnic Studies,

IOM, 2001, Annex III, 14 [cited January 2, 2003]; available from http://www.iom.fi/publications/Reports/2001/Baltic-Trafficking/Annex%20….

[2489] The Children's Rights Protection Center was established in 1995 and was restructured in 1999 to become the National Center for the Rights of the Child. See Government of Latvia, Report of the State of Latvia on Situation after the Conference on Children held by Government leaders of States of the World, 1 and 5 [cited August 27, 2003]; available from http://www.unicef.org/specialsession/how_country/edr_latvia_en.PDF.

[2490] The working group includes representation from the Ministries of Justice, Welfare, Interior, Foreign Affairs, and Education and Science, municipalities, NGOs and others. See Nordic-Baltic Campaign Against Trafficking in Women, National Campaign: Latvia, [online] [cited August 27, 2003]; available from http://www.nordicbalticcampaign.org/latvian/.

[2491] UNICEF, Prophylaxis Process for Street Children in Latvia Against HIV, AIDS and STDs, [online] [cited August 29, 2002]; available from http://www.un.lv/unicef/English/Projects/Profil_eng.htm.

[2492] IOM, Press Briefing Notes – 15 February, 2002 [cited August 27, 2003]; available from http://www.iom.int/en/archive/PBN150202.shtml.

[2493] The project takes place in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, and is carried out through a partnership among the Ministries of Interior, Border Guards, Departments of Investigating Organized Crime and Ministries of Foreign Affairs. See IOM, Online Project Compendium, [online] [cited July 17, 2003]; available from http://www.iom.int/iomwebsite/Project/ServletSerachProject?event+detail….

[2494] Child Center for Children At Risk in the Baltic Sea Region, [online] [cited July 17, 2003]; available from http://www.childcentre.baltinfo.org/.

[2495] UNESCO, Education for All 2000 Assessment: Country Reports – Latvia, prepared by Department of Strategy of Education in the Ministry of Education and Science, pursuant to UN General Assembly Resolution 52/84, 1999, Section 11.1 [cited September 3, 2003]; available from http://www2.unesco.org/wef/countryreports/latvia/contents.html.

[2496] World Bank, Latvia – Education Improvement Project, Project Information Document, PID7255, January 7, 1999, [cited August 27, 2003]; available from http://www-wds.worldbank.org/servlet/WDSServlet?pcont=details&eid=00009….

[2497] UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties: Latvia, para. 5, 47 and 48. See also 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, Stockholm, 1999-2002, 132.

[2498] Swedish International Development Agency, Looking Back, Thinking Forward, 132.

[2499] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2002: Latvia, Washington, D.C., March 31, 2003, Section 5; available from http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2002/index.htm.

[2500] 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. See Kamenska, "Trafficking in Women – Latvia." 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.

[2501] Constitution of Latvia, 1922, Amended 1998, (February 15, 1922), Article 112 [cited August 27, 2003]; available from http://www.oefre.unibe.ch/law/icl/lg00000_.html.

[2502] UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Initial Reports of States Parties due in 1994, CRC/C/11/Add.22, prepared by Government of Latvia, pursuant to Article 44 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Geneva, March 22, 2000, para. 38.

[2503] UNESCO, EFA 2000 Report: Latvia, Section 6.

[2504] World Bank, World Development Indicators for 2003 [CD-ROM], Washington, D.C., 2003. For an explanation of gross primary enrollment and/or attendance rates that are greater than 100 percent, please see the definitions of gross primary enrollment rate and gross primary attendance rate in the glossary of this report.

[2505] For a more detailed discussion on the relationship between education statistics and work, see the preface to this report.

[2506] UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties: Latvia, para. 43. See also World Bank, Latvia – Education Improvement Project.

[2507] Government of Latvia, Report of the State of Latvia on Situation after the Conference on Children, 27. See also Latvian Save the Children, Alternative Report to the United Nations of Situation in Area of Protection on the Rights of the Children in Latvia 1998-2002, 2002. See also U.S. Embassy-Riga Labor Attaché, electronic communication to USDOL official, February 23, 2004.

[2508] UNESCO, EFA 2000 Report: Latvia, Section 11.1. There is a report that in 2001, the Inter-Ministerial Committee on the Rights of the Child found 15,000 children not in school, although this number was not released to the general public. See Latvian Save the Children, Alternative Report to the United Nations.

[2509] Latvian Ministry of Education annual report, as included in U.S. Embassy-Riga Labor Attaché, electronic communication, February 23, 2004.

[2510] The Council of Ministers approves a list of jobs that are prohibited for children under age 15. Latvia Labor Code, Amended March 17, 1992, Section 180 [cited October 28, 2002]; available from http://natlex.ilo.org/scripts/natlexcgi.exe?lang=E. In order to enforce Article 180 of the Labor Code, a list of work where it is prohibited to employ children in age up to 15 was approved by the Cabinet of Ministers in 1992. Decision No. 292 of Council of Ministers of July 24, 1992, "On Heavy Works and Works Performed Under Harmful Condition Where it is Prohibited to Employ Women and Person Under 18." See Government of Latvia, Report of the State of Latvia on Situation after the Conference on Children, 17.

[2511] Latvia Labor Code, Amended March 17, 1992, Sections 182, 84 and 86. 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 also U.S. Embassy-Riga, unclassified telegram no. 1381, October 2001.

[2512] Constitution of Latvia, 1922, Amended 1998, Article 106.

[2513] 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 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, 53 and 65 as cited in Kamenska, "Trafficking in Women – Latvia," 3, 4, 6 and 18.

[2514] Kamenska, "Trafficking in Women – Latvia," 4.

[2515] Latvia Criminal Code, Articles 164, 65, as cited in Kamenska, "Trafficking in Women," 5.

[2516] Interpol, Legislation of Interpol member states on sexual offences against children: Latvia, [database online] 2003 [cited August 27, 2003]; available from http://www.interpol.int/Public/Children/SexualAbuse/NationalLaws/csaLat….

[2517] Ibid.

[2518] UNESCO, EFA 2000 Report: Latvia, Section 7.

[2519] Address by H.E. Dr. Vaira Vike-Freiberga, President of Latvia, "Stop Child Trafficking: Modern-Day Slavery" Conference in Helsinki, June 2, 2003, [cited on August 27, 2003].

[2520] ILO, Ratifications by Country, ILOLEX, [database online] [cited August 30, 2002]; available from http://www.ilo.org/ilolex/english/newratframeE.htm.


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