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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Child Labor Still Serious Problem, UN Asserts

The gravity of the country's child-labor problem, including prostitution and panhandling, remains poorly understood, Alexei Bukharov, coordinator for the UN International Labor Organization's anti-child labor program in Russia, said Thursday.

While the UN's International Program for the Elimination of Child Labor has been working in Russia since 2000, it has yet to produce a comprehensive study of the problem of child labor.

In the Volgograd region, a 2004 UN study found there were 7,000 child laborers working in the peak summer months. As many as 1,000 of those were engaged in prostitution.

In Moscow, where the most recent statistics were released in 2001, up to 50,000 children were believed to be engaged in panhandling, car washing, theft, prostitution and other activities. Bukharov believes today's figures would be similar.

"Parents either give their tacit consent, or, sometimes, consciously push their children into street jobs," Bukharov said.

Bukharov, noting the United Nations needed the help of the Health and Social Development Ministry to cobble together a national report, said UN officials had only just begun discussing such a study with ministry officials.

Bukharov's comments came after an ILO meeting at which the group presented its second global report on child labor. At the meeting, Bukharov said there had been no studies on child labor in Russia since the ILO released its reports on the Volgograd and Arkhangelsk regions in 2004.

Thursday's meeting at a UN office, attended by approximately 30 representatives of government agencies, labor groups and other nongovernmental organizations, came one day after President Vladimir Putin in his state-of-the-nation address called on women to have more babies and mapped out a series of initiatives to improve the lives of mothers and children.

Bukharov showed a video that had been filmed last month of an IPEC center in St. Petersburg that helps children caught up in street life readjust to society. He said five such centers were operating in St. Petersburg and that more would open in the surrounding Leningrad region. More than 1,000 children have been helped, he said.

UN experts said it was difficult to combat child labor in Russia because much of it takes place off the books or in the criminal underworld.

Viktor Stepanov, an official in the Health and Social Development Ministry, praised ILO's work in St. Petersburg and said the group's experience would be valuable in other regions.