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Child labour in the Russian Federation


Stephenson, Svetlana (2002). Child labour in the Russian Federation. ILO Working Paper WP/07/2002.


The transition to a market economy, following the break-up of the USSR, affected the lives of children in the Russian Federation in many different ways. One of the most profound consequences has been the increased involvement of children in economic activity. Television news and newspaper articles report almost every day how children, either as unaccompanied minors or with their parents, are forced to move to the big cities in search of a
better life or for their basic safety. Some children leave home to live and work on the streets; others stay at home, but work on the streets to help support their family. They engage in a variety of activities, including petty trading, singing or playing musical instruments, offering unwanted
services like washing car windows or just begging. In the worst cases, they can be seen on the streets offering their bodies for sale. How did this happen? Why has child labour become an issue after seventy years of socialism, with its insistence on children as “the only privileged class” in Soviet society? Has child labour emerged as a reaction to the stresses of transition and is it thus directly linked to poverty, social and geographical dislocation and new mechanisms of social exclusion? Or must the Russian Federation, by joining the Western world, experience social changes that undermine collective institutions and traditional social controls and that allow children to act as free economic agents?
The dearth of statistical information and survey data on child labour in the Russian Federation, both pre-and post-reform, means that we cannot systematically examine the direct links between the larger social, cultural and economic factors at play and specific child labour practices.
However, it is possible to use findings small-scale research on child labour in conjunction with available indicators on
phenomena such as income dynamics, processes and mechanisms of social exclusion, transformation of labour markets and changes in social policies, to show how the increasing incidence of child labour in the Russian Federation may be connected to larger-scale social change.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

ILO Working Paper WP/07/2002


Stephenson, Svetlana