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Child Labor in Georgia

bavshvi.gifAlthough nobody has carried out a survey on the rights of the child in Georgia, in 1997-2000 research on child labor was carried out. It was implemented with the joint support of the UN Development Program and International Labor Organization (ILO). Since that time, nobody has remembered about the issue, and there is no information about the child labor in Georgia.

Outcome of the Old Research

The research was carried out in Imereti, Samegrelo, Kvemo Kartli, Shida Kartli, Samtskhe-Javakheti, Kakheti, Guria, Adjara and Tbilisi. The results included a special report in 2004. "The fact that 6% of the children were neither employed nor in class causes serious concern. These are children who are neither receiving in-home nor in-school education. As for the employed children, 85% of them have normal conditions. Another 27% said that they work without breaks. Another 29 % work in difficult conditions. Half of the economically active children said that accidents frequently happen at their work places, and two-thirds of them have had physical injuries. The research showed that 5% of children do not go to school, and this causes concern. Without education, these children will spend the rest of their lives in poverty," the report stated.

The research dealt with the law prohibiting child labor as well. Although Georgia has ratified the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, nothing has come of this because of weak law enforcement. "The strength of Georgian institutions and law depend on the capacity of the police and courts to enforce laws. However, these institutions still cannot carry out their functions effectively in Georgia. A country with weak government will have difficulty enacting laws against child labor as well as law in general. Besides that, in 1999 the percent of unofficially employed children was 52%. Thus, the law against child labor did not protect most of them," the report said.

The survey dealt with the sexual exploitation of the children, too. Although, there is a law banning the sexual exploitation of the children, it has not done enough to solve the problem. The survey said, "Tbilisi police, particularly the police precinct which is in charge of the railway station district, do not take sufficient measures to stop the sexual exploitation of the juveniles. Tbilisi central railway station is a place where anyone can purchase sexual favors from young males and females. They gather in the central station and spend nights in the empty train cars and basements. A survey in 1997 studied the cases of 112 female prostitutes whose ages were from 12 to 16 years. According to the survey, 42 % of those girls did not hold any other job. Approximately 20 % of them were illiterate."

There are some statistics in the survey that deal with the conditions and wages of child laborers. For instance, "Only 9% of the employed children received wages; 18% were working for food; 2% received nothing.  Regarding work conditions, 3% work in the worst conditions; 2% work in the cold; 3% work without breaks; 90% work in normal conditions. Regarding injuries on the job, these occurred among only 4% of child laborers. 62% of these were injuries due to accidents and 38% was due to cold."

This is the only survey in Georgia on the topic of child labor, though it is already dated.  Neither governmental nor non-governmental organizations remember carry out a similar survey. Although they all are aware of the situation concerning child labor in Georgia, they insist that a new survey will be conducted in 2007.

Smell of the Construction Materials Sickened Children

The Children Rights Center opened at the Public Defender's Office several months ago. Natia Khaindrava, the lawyer of the center, told the journalist for the Human Rights Center, that they have much important information on child labor, and they will soon publish it.

Natia Khindrava: We do not have concrete examples of child labor, but we have information received from street children. We have taken some cases form the Gldani Adaptation Center, which proves that large construction companies are using cheap child labor.  The parents of these children often know about this fact, and they encourage such use of their children. For example, if a worker is paid ten lari a day, the child only gets 3-4 lari a day. We want to investigate the situation.

Talks with such children also proved that their parents make them beg. We have some cases regarding this problem, which we are investigating at present. In several cases, if the child does not bring money home, his or her parents will not allow the child to come inside or they will beat him or her. We have assembled many similar cases, and we will investigate these in due time.

Journalist: Do you have any facts of a child's rights being violated at school?

N.Kh. The situation at schools is better than the situation for child laborers.  However, we also have cases on schools. For example, at present many schools are being renovated.  These cases mainly complain about prolonged construction and children having to attend lessons in the smell of paint and other toxic materials. Many of them have become sick from the smell. One such school is secondary school # 87. The parents have petitioned the Ministry of Education.  However, they still have not received a firm answer.

UNICEF also intends to carry out a large-scale survey on child labor and children's rights in 2007. Maia Kurtsikidze, head of the UNICEF office in Georgia, said that children in poverty most often have their rights violated.

Maia Kurtsikidze: More than 50% of the Georgian population lives below the poverty level, and 16% of these citizens live in extreme poverty. It is natural that the rights of the child are not paid close attention to in such a poor country.  Children who live in poor families do not receive adequate medical care and very often they are without families or guardians. It is a group at risk for violence and exploitation.

The respondent said that the research on children's poverty will be completed soon, and then concrete strategies and programs for alleviating children's poverty will be undertaken. Those programs should help to solve some of the problems.

Representatives of the Ministry of Education and Science as well as of the Ministry of Health told HRIDC that their ministries have not carried out research on the problem, either. The chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Health, Gigi Tsereteli, promised us to focus their attention on the problem next year.

Gigi Tsereteli: The amount of information on child labor is too little. I hope it will be paid more attention in 2007. In general, child labor is not well studied; however, it is all too important.  I do not think this field should include the ministry of Health and Social Welfare. It should be within the competence of the Ministry of Economics. As for the children's rights, the situation in this field is much better that it was previously.  However, we still have much work to do.  

Eka Gulua 

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