Child Labour in Kosovo

Interview with CONCORDIA Kosovo National Director Mirela Lavric on child labour in Kosovo.

12th June is International Day Against Child Labour

Since 2002, every year on 12 June, attention has been drawn to the fact that child labour is still current, that children are exploited and deprived of their rights. Also in the countries where CONCORDIA is active, our staff members are confronted with realities of life in which children contribute significantly to the family income. Instead of going to school to learn, to develop and to have better prospects later on, they collect rubbish, iron or beg.

CONCORDIA Country Director Mirela Lavric explains the background in Kosovo and specifically in relation to the municipality of Prizren, where CONCORDIA is active, raising awareness of the value of education and supporting families to see and choose other paths for their children.

What is the main reason for child labour in Kosovo?

Poverty is certainly the greatest reason for child labour in Kosovo. When families cannot afford to cover the basic needs, they send their children to work to supplement the household income. However, the poverty is linked with other factors like low level of education of parents, unemployment of parents, health condition of parents, domestic violence, lack of support from public subsidies and family’s habits to engage the entire family members in seasonal work.

[Translate to English:] Mirela Lavric
Mirela Lavric CONCORDIA Kosovo National Director
"Poverty is certainly the greatest reason for child labour in Kosovo. When families cannot afford to cover the basic needs, they send their children to work to supplement the household income."

What kind of work the children are forced to do?

The largest number of children is involved in agriculture and farming. Those living in urban areas are usually working in car wash, warehouses, construction works, collecting garbage or metal. Some of the families are sending their children to beg on the streets (some of them are playing drums to collect money).

What are the main jobs where children are hired?

Children between fifteen and eighteen years of age may be legally employed for easy labour that do not represent a risk to their health or development and if such a labour is not prohibited by any law. However, most of the children are not legally hired, but they work on the black market for loading-unloading of goods, collecting metals, as above-mentioned.

Who asks them to do it/whom do they work for?

In the country there is a lack of awareness of the society regarding child labour. Parents/families send them to work in most of the cases, because sometimes they can earn even more i.e. when selling things on the street, a child can have more buyers because people do not consider that by doing this they actually encourage the growth of child labour. Sometimes, children themselves are looking for opportunities to earn money to satisfy their needs for example to buy clothes, mobile phones etc. Child abuse is done by the owners of the companies who do not take into account their age when taking them to do different jobs.

As a result, these children can no longer go to school...(?)

Especially for Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities there is a high percentage of drop-out the school. Completion rates for children from Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities is 85% for primary school, 59% for lower secondary and 24% of children completing upper secondary school (UNICEF, 2021). Child labour, besides poor economic conditions, early marriage, preference for girls to stay at home, discrimination and low parental education level are all factors for decreased school attendance.

The problem of child labour in Kosovo is directly related to a lack of political mechanisms, discrimination, marginalisation, and child trafficking. How exactly?

The economic and social condition of the families, is one of the main factors of this problem, as another influencing factor for child labour is also the education and lifestyle of these families. The parents are reproducing the same situations as when they were forced by their parents to work. In these families is not seen any opportunity to pass from poverty to well-being, they mainly try to get some means on a daily basis in order to get through the day. At the level of the government, several memorandums of cooperation have been made with the ILO to assist in solving this problem.

How many children are there in the district of Prizren and in Kosovo, are there any figures?

31% of Kosovo’s population is 0-18 years old. Kosovo has the youngest population in Europe with an average age of 29.5 years. The total population of Municipality of Prizren is 177,781 citizens, out of it 67,145 from age group 0 to 19 (census 2011).

There are no data regarding number of children involved in child labour at the level of Municipality of Prizren.

According to ILO research “ANALYSIS OF COSTS FOR MANAGING CASES OF CHILD LABOUR IN KOSOVO” (October 2020), a rough estimate of the number of children involved in child labour on an annual basis captures the figure of about 4,321 children, of which about 580 are in the evidence of the Centres for Social Work and about 3,741 in non-governmental organisations.

How old are the children?

From the age of 5 to 17 years.

What has been undertaken at the political level about this issue?

Since 2004, the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare (MLWS) has demonstrated its commitment on addressing the issue of child labour through the following actions:

  • The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding for the implementation of the ILO International Program for the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) by the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General and the Minister of Labour and Social Welfare, in 2005;
  • Establishment of the Child Labour Unit at the Ministry of Education and Culture in March 2005;
  • Establishment of the Kosovo Committee for the Prevention and Elimination of Child Labour
  • (KKPEPF) with the Decision of the Prime Minister of Kosovo No. 5 / 166, dated December 13, 2005;
  • Providing institutional support and ensuring the active participation of public institutions both at the central and local level in testing various interventions for addressing the issue of child labor, supported by ILO-IPEC, during the period 2004-2009;
  • Initiation of the process for the establishment of the Child Labour Monitoring System, in compliance with Article 5 of the ILO Convention no. 182, in order to serve as a ground for a formalization of standard operating procedures for:
    • identification, withdrawal, support, and children protection included in the most serious forms of child labour,
    • documentation of child labour trends in specific economic sectors
    • evaluating the efficiency of existing interventions at the central and local levels, including recommendations and guidelines for concrete actions and policy development.
  • Drafting the Action Plan for the Prevention and Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour (2011-2013), for defining time-bound goals and providing clear evidence of the commitment of public authorities in terms of responsibilities and division of the budget for the implementation of the plan.
  • The Law on the Protection of Children

What does it look like in practice?

Some of these policies, laws, administrative instructions, and memoranda have given initial results with the identification of cases of children at work, the steps taken are based on this legislation and these work practices.

However, in practice, managing cases of children who are exposed to child labour is challenging. These children have specific needs and the services are tailored on the basis of individual needs of the children. Moreover, there are no specific regulations in Kosovo as for the type of services or length of services that must be provided for cases of child labour specifically, there is not sufficient funding for institutions providing such services and the is lack of profiling of social workers.

According to the ILO research “ANALYSIS OF COSTS FOR MANAGING CASES OF CHILD LABOUR IN KOSOVO”, analysis of the direct and indirect costs for provision of social services to children in need indicate an estimated monthly cost of 433 Euros to provide social services for child labour cases. This unit cost does not include residential costs for victims of child labour because child protection houses have not been established yet and a deeper research is needed to fully assess their operation costs and financing sources.

How do you work with affected children and their families?

We do have among our programme participants children which used to work at early ages and, unfortunately, there are still some cases when the parents send their children to work or to beg on the streets, despite our all efforts. Most of the time, this happens during the summer, when there are agriculture works, but most common, children are working in car wash or beg on the streets, since during this period of the year there are many tourists or diaspora visiting the city. As soon as we identify such situations, our team is visiting first the family then the company/”employer”, if the case, with the purpose to inform them about the bad consequences on child’s health on one hand, and on the other hand, about the legal ban of child labour. For the families, sometimes is difficult to understand or to accept that they shouldn’t send their children to work or beg, because for them this is normality and it is the only source of income. We succeeded at least to bring the children to our centre and provide to them educational support, register them to school, offer them a good meal per day, counselling sessions, leisure activities, school supplies, music classes, etc.; but even for these children it happens that in the afternoons they go to work or to beg.

Further, we have the possibility to announce the cases to the Centre for Social Work, but due to lack of resources, the Centre turns to our organisation to ask the support to continue our work with these families.  

Can an example be given from practice of what you last said in the Exchange conversation with children who never went to school ?

A concrete example: we work with a family that has a total of 27 members (2 parents, 14 children and 11 grandchildren) who all live in 3 rooms of a very deteriorated building, not receiving any social benefit and without so many chances for the adults to find a stable job or with a legally registered labour contract. From the 14 children, just the smallest one is registered to school due to CONCORDIA support. The other children are older than the age to start the first grade, thus, they need catch-up classes but, these are not yet established in Prizren city schools. One of the grandchildren, with a similar age of her uncle has also been registered to school by CONCORDIA. These two children, together with their older siblings or relatives, used to beg on the street in order to buy food and pay the rent for the entire family. Even though the two children registered to school started to come to our CONCORDIA Tranzit centre where they receive food and clothes, they continue to be on the streets to beg in the evenings and to provide for their family, despite of our efforts of counselling the parents and the children. Even for the children, unfortunately, this became a normality of their lives that can only be stopped with the consistent intervention of the authorities on the streets.

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