The Republic of North Macedonia is a landlocked country in south-east Europe and home to 2.1 million people. The country has an ethnically diverse population, including 58% Macedonians, 24% Albanians, 4% Turks and 3% Romani.
People living in Macedonia have one of Europe's lowest incomes. With a relatively high rate of unemployment - it is around15% - many people have left the country and moved abroad for work.
SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children and young people without parental care, or at risk of losing it, in North Macedonia since 2002.
More than 22% of the population live below the nationally established poverty line, impacting at least 452,000 citizens.
Children are disproportionately affected, with 30% of those under 18s at risk of poverty, and more than 43% being poorly fed.
Children face long-term consequences on their educational outcomes, physical and intellectual development, and their health and well-being.
Children in North Macedonia are exposed to some of the worst forms of child labour. While the legal age for work is 15 years old, around 19% of 5 to14 year olds are working. Of these, 21% are combining work and school.
Child labour robs children of their childhood. It deprives them of their rights, exposes them to violence, physical and mental harm, and negatively impacts their educational achievements.
At least every third child from the Roma community experiences poverty beyond a lack of money. As a result, around 73% of children from the Roma community in North Macedonia, who attend school, never complete their education, often because sustaining schooling is too costly.
A poor educational background can have profound consequence. These include slower learning, worse employment prospects, restricted development, and an increased vulnerability to neglect, abuse and exploitation.