Since the beginning of the deep economic crisis which hit Greece over three years ago, at least 100,000 minors across the country have ended up taking on under-the-table jobs to help their families pay their bills.
Greek daily Kathimerini underscored that though the figures are not government ones, they are a reliable estimate provided by the Greek ombudsman and groups working for child protection. The figure does not include the child victims of human trafficking or the windshield cleaners working at traffic lights, but only those that belong to vulnerable social classes that have been pushed even more to the fringes by the crisis, such as families in which the parents are jobless, Roma communities and immigrants. The only officially documented figures on child labour in Greece are those released by the Labour Inspectorate, which cite 562 minors working illegally in 2012, while in its report on the active labour force in the last quarter of 2012, Greece’s national statistics institute Elstat estimated that 6,238 children were working in the country.
The Public Education Ministry was not able to provide official figures on the number of children who drop out of secondary school, even if the number of young people leaving their studies can provide only a partial idea of how many children are working illegally in Greece. The European statistics institute Eurostat reports that 11.4% of Greece’s student population dropped out of school in 2012, a percentage which translates in about 70,000 children who have left their secondary school studies, raising serious concerns for child protection associations. Moreover, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) reports that in 2009 (a year before the crisis hit), about 139,000 Greeks between the ages of 15 and 24 were neither enrolled in school nor had a an job, which would hint that many of them were working in jobs paid under the table. The ILO reports that the figure rose to 161,900 in 2010, while in 2009 there were 31,400 adolescents between the ages of 15 and 19 with a job, down to 25,700 the following year.
These figures, alongside the ones provided by the Ombudsman, educators and child protection associations, would suggest that there may be as many as 100,000 children working in Greek today, often part-time, badly paid and without any insurance. ”An estimated 70% of young people drop out of school to work. It is no exaggeration to say that between 70,000 and 100,000 minors are currently working in Greece,” said Ilias Lyberis, director of UNICEF Hellas. ”I believe that the poverty affecting a growing number of families – with serious consequences for children – often pushes them to seek part-time or occasional employment, often under poor conditions, in order to contribute to their families’ income,” said Giorgos Moschos, deputy ombudsman in charged of child rights.