Section 7. Worker Rights
b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The government’s enforcement of the laws was not always effective. Forced labor is a criminal offense with penalties for conviction that would be sufficient to deter violations; the low number of investigations into forced or compulsory labor, however, offset the effect of strong penalties and encouraged the use of forced and compulsory labor.
The Ministry of Labor, Health, and Social Affairs reported that it found no cases of forced or compulsory labor although the GTUC claimed this was because there were no improvements in the government’s efforts to improve labor inspection. The law permits the ministry’s inspection department to make unannounced visits to businesses suspected of employing forced labor or human trafficking. The ministry reported that, as of August, it had inspected 154 companies on suspicions of human trafficking and forced labor.
Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment
The minimum legal age for employment is generally 16, although in exceptional cases children may work with parental consent at age 14. Children younger than 18 may not engage in unhealthy, underground, or hazardous work; children who are 16 to 18 are also subject to reduced workhours and prohibited from working at night. The law permits employment agreements with persons younger than 14 in sports, the arts, and cultural and advertising activities.
In March, the government adopted a National Human Rights Action Plan that includes a chapter on children’s rights. The Ministry of Labor, Health, and Social Affairs reported that it found no cases of child labor law violations during the year. The lack of a labor inspectorate with the authority to levy fines seriously undermined enforcement efforts, and the low number of investigations into child labor made it unclear how effectively the government enforced the law. Except in cases of suspected human trafficking or forced labor violations, the Department of Labor Inspection was only able to conduct monitoring if enterprises voluntarily invited inspectors and asked them to assess their Occupational Safety and Health situation. Even in such cases, inspectors did not have a mandate to sanction firms for violations of OSH regulations and could only issue recommendations. Depending on the offense, conviction of child labor is punishable by fine, removal of operating permits, community service, probation, or imprisonment.
According to the National Child Labor Study for 2016, the latest year for which data was available, the majority of working children (an estimated 83 percent) were employed in agriculture, mainly helping self-employed family members in a family enterprise or farm. In older age groups, children became increasingly involved in other industries. Many children younger than 16 worked on small, family-owned farms. In most cases, authorities did not consider this work as abusive or categorized as child labor. In some ethnic minority areas, family farm obligations interfered with school attendance, and school participation by ethnic minority children was especially low. Some families in rural Kvemo Kartli (an ethnic Azeri region) and Kakheti (where there was also a significant ethnic Azeri population) worked on distant pastures for six to nine months a year, so their children seldom attended school. Estimates of the number of children affected were not available.
Street begging remained the most visible form of child labor, especially in Tbilisi. In July, UNICEF reported children of street families and unaccompanied children moved following the agricultural and tourist seasons, including to tourist sites along the Black Sea during the summer. Such children were vulnerable to violence and did not have access to either education or medical services beyond emergency care.