Street Children in Romania

Mihai is 14 and has been working on the street begging and washing windows since he was five. Nelu is 13 and makes bricks alongside his family. According to a new Global Report on child labour from the International Labour Organization, Romania and its neighbouring countries have the highest incidence of child labour in Europe.

Date issued: 29 May 2006 | Size/duration: 00:02:12 (3.6MB)
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When Mihai was a baby, his father used to beg on the streets of Bucharest holding the child in his arms.


I have been begging since I was five…by the traffic lights at the crossroads. At ten, I learned how to wash windshields.

Eastern Europe has the highest incidence of child labour in Europe. In Romania, more than 70 000 children work. The break-up of the Soviet Union and the collapse of Communism left unemployment and poverty.

Child labour in Romania is concentrated in poorly paid sectors, such as agriculture and construction. Brick-making is often done by members of the Roma minority.

They suffer from discrimination, making it harder for them to find decent work. At the same time, there’s a tradition of encouraging children to earn a living, rather than study. Nelu is 13.


I rarely go to school. I stay here with my mother to help her with the bricks.

A new Global Report on child labour from the International Labour Organization recommends better laws and strict enforcement to give Roma children a chance.

Izabella Popa, Director, The National Authority for Child’s Rights Protection

Child labour not only affects the health, education and development of children, it also has an influence on the family by perpetuating poverty.

On the street, girls are particularly vulnerable and can end up in prostitution.

There’s a problem with trafficking of children, both within Romania and abroad.

The Romanian government has worked closely with the ILO to bring in new laws and ratify an international convention to eliminate the worst forms of child labour.

Across Central and Eastern Europe the ILO is running 28 programmes which have supported nearly 15,000 children involved in child labour. It’s working to give them a better future, but there is still much work to be done.


When I get old, I will still be washing windshields. What else can I do if I can’t go to school?