For more details on the methodology used in the mapping, please see the Phase 1 full report
This site provides information on more than 70 age related legislations in 22 countries across the region Central Eastern Europe and Commonwealth of Independent States (CEE/CIS). The information on minimum ages is based on national laws and policies, as well as State Party Reports to the Committee of Experts on the Rights of the Child (commonly referred to as CRC), as well as other internationally recognised sources of data, including the Inter-Parliamentary Union, World Health Organization, and UNESCO.
The core of the research is to provide information on national legal frameworks regarding specific age requirements. The primary source of data is national legislation and policies, with additional sources utilised when necessary. In the table view the full data set is available for download, including information on the sources.
Data was collected by a team of researchers between February and April 2016, and later reviewed by UNICEF country offices. The last update of legal changes taken into account is spring 2016. Data for Bulgaria was updated in September 2017 by the UNICEF Bulgaria Country Office.
Information on the three countries in the region that are members of the European Union, namely Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania, has kindly been provided by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA). It was collected by their interdisciplinary research network FRANET. The contribution of FRA is gratefully acknowledged. The data provided by FRA is provisional (August 2016).
In addition to the age, for example, on when consent of parents is required, on the conditions and situations in which children can act in their own right without requirement of consent, as well as on exceptions to the general rule for specific age requirements.
Please note that laws and policies change constantly, and neither UNICEF nor Youth Policy Labs takes responsibility for the accuracy of the laws presented here. For up-to-date information on age-related policies and laws, please contact the human rights bodies in your country. More information is provided on our disclaimer page.
|10||Fixed minimum age|
|10+||Lower minimum age set. Additionally the child needs to prove capacity. Consequently, 0+ indicates that no lower minimum age set, only the capacity of the child is considered.|
|10*||Lower minimum age set. Additional parental consent or court approval required.|
|10'||Exceptions apply. Please see the full table, available for download, for details.|
|<||Indicates “younger than”.|
|>||Indicates “older than”.|
|n.a.||Stands for not applicable and is used when there is no minimum age legislation because the relevant institution does not exists (i.e. no candidacy age for upper house for unicameral political systems and for drafting in countries which do not have mandatory military service).|
|==||Indicates that no specific minimum age legislation could be found, and the assumption is that it is set at the same age as the related or overarching minimum age. For example:
• legal emancipation through marriage (as age of majority)
• legal emancipation through employment (as age of majority)
• part-time work (as full-time work)
• child / youth organisation (as child or youth organisation)
• minimum wage for under-aged workers (as for all workers)
|xx||Indicates that a right does not exist or a practice is not legal. For example, in the case of same-sex marriage or the right to information on the biological family.|
|( )||Exceptions to the general rule relating to the same minimum age data point.|
|[ ]||Additional information on a minimum age for a similar, but not the same, data point.|
|unclear||Cases where there are excerpts from legislation or policy but the specific age is unclear.|
|n.d.||Indicated that no data could be found.|
To capture the knowledge, perceptions and experiences of adolescents regarding age-related policies, a consultation in the form of an online survey and focus groups was held with adolescents between the ages of 10 and 17 in the following five Europe and Central Asia countries:
The countries in which the research was implemented were selected based on regional representation within Europe and Central Asia region and the expressed interest of UNICEF Country Offices.
For more information on the roles and responsibilities of the cooperating organisations, click here.
The thematic scope of this consultation was selected in consideration of:
• The desk-based research on existing national age-related legislation completed in the first phase of “Age Matters!”
• Age-related articles covered in UN Convention of the Rights of the Child and General Comment 20 relating to adolescence, as well as other general comments which have a specific age-related recommendation to State Parties Bulgaria
• Data availability on age-related legislation for the countries selected
• Implementation of legal coverage, based foremost on the country reports to CRC Committee and other easily available documents.
Priority was given to those areas where a tension exists between national legislation and the provisions in the Convention and associated general comments. Having considered above sources and in agreement with the UNICEF Regional Office, the consultation focused on the following areas:
• Civic/legal rights
○ Minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) • Social participation
○ Marriageable age (MACR) • Economic participation and education
○ Working age (full-time, light work)
○ End of compulsory schooling age • Health
○ Minimum age to seek medical advice or counselling (including sexual and reproductive health advice)
○ Minimum age to make decisions on health services or treatment • Political participation
Several other themes, such as laws relating to safety, security & ICT, or sexual consent – while timely and important – were not addressed at length due to restrictions on resources and time.
The consultation utilised a mixed method approach involving an online survey (n=5,725) to gather quantitative data, and focus groups (n=214) to explore concepts and generate discussion, as well as to illustrate and confirm, clarify and elaborate, or extend topics explored in the survey.
The mixed methods of quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis validated the study through the process of triangulation, while providing an increased level of knowledge and different perspectives on the investigated issue. The data collected through survey and focus groups allowed the researchers to understand the underlying meanings, motivations, and opinions of the selected group of adolescents.
Surveys and focus groups were conducted in the local language of each country. Surveys were delivered online and focus groups were conducted by trained Youth Policy Labs facilitators.
The collected data was analysed using both quantitative statistical methods and SPSS software,
and qualitative content analysis and MAXQDA software. The results offered insights into the experiences and thinking of adolescents in selected countries in the region and can be used to inform UNICEF Regional Office on the age relevant policies and programmes.
This research is exploratory. The methodology used in this consultation did not ensure representativeness and does not allow generalisations that would apply to the entire adolescent population. This consultation does not claim to apply to all adolescents nor does it use statistical inference to determine properties of an adolescent population, nor to test any hypotheses. Rather, the aim of the consultation was to gain further insights into issues facing adolescents in the region in relation to minimum age legislation, and to open new avenues for dialogue and policy discussion as well as for research in the future.
For more information on the survey & focus groups, including sampling, see the "Methodology" chapter of the Final Synthesis Report here.
For an English version of the online survey, click here.
For an English version of the focus group facilitator guide, click here.
Phase 1 of Age Matters! found that in the region, “minimum ages are riddled with exceptions, additions, and considerations. This makes it more complicated to fully understand, monitor, and improve the situation for children and adolescents – not least for them as individuals attempting to understand the laws for themselves.”
Therefore, it should be noted that while many laws have several exceptions and considerations (especially minimum age of criminal responsibility, and consent to medical treatment), the most widely applicable ages were used in the online survey and focus groups. This was done for ease of understanding by adolescent participants, and for the sake of discussion. The simplified fixed-age values, and the original source laws, are listed below:
|Minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR)||14 1||14 2||14 3||14 4||14 5|
|Marriageable age (without consent / with consent)||18/16 6||18/16 7||18/16 8||18/16 9||18/14 10|
|Full-time working age||16 11||16 12||16 13||16 14||16 15|
|End of compulsory schooling||16 16||16 17||18 18||17 19||17 20|
|Minimum age to independently seek medical advice or counselling||18 21||16 22||18 23||18 24||14 25|
|Minimum age to give or refuse consent to medical treatment||18 26||18 27||18 28||18 29||18 30|
|Voting Age||18 31||18 32||18 33||18 34||18 35|
Data collected by YPL and verified by UNICEF Country Offices for Phase 1 “Age Matters!” 2016 report. Data for Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania provided by EU FRA. Data updated on 1 September 2017 by UNICEF Bulgaria Office.
1 Source: Armenia Criminal Code, 2003, Article 24.
2 Source: Bulgaria Criminal Code, 2 April 1968.
3 Source: Kazakhstan Criminal Code, 2014 Article 80.
4 Source: Romania Criminal Procedure Code Law 35/2010.
5 Source: Ukraine Criminal Code, 2001.
6 Source: Armenia Family Code, 2013, Article 10.
7 Source: Bulgaria Family Code, 23 June 2009, Art. 4-5.
8 Source: Kazakhstan Code "On Marriage and Family", 2011.
9 Source: Romania Law 287 of 17 July 2009 regarding the Civil Code Article 259(3).
10 Source: Ukraine Family Code, 2002.
11 Source: Armenia Labour Code, 2004, Article 15.
12 Source: Bulgaria Labour Code, 1 April 1986, Art. 301, para. 1
13 Source: Kazakhstan Labour Code, 2015
14 Source: Romania Labour Code, 2003, Article 13.(1).
15 Source: Ukraine CRC State Report III-IV by Ukraine, 2010.
16 Source: Armenia Law on Education, 1999, Article 18.3 and CRC Report Armenia, 2003.
17 Source: Bulgaria Public Education Act, 18 October 1991, Art. 7.
18 Source: Kazakhstan law on education system, 2011, Article 31 and initial CRC report for Kazakhstan, 2002.
19 Source: Romania Law 1/2011 on national education, Article 16.(2).
20 Source: CRC State Report II by Ukraine, 2001.
21 Source: Armenia Law on Medical Care, 1996, Article 10 and UN CRC 2003 for Armenia
22 Source: Bulgaria, Health Act, 10 August 2004, Art. 87. It is valid only for health consultations, testing and prophylactic check-ups (Health Act).
The specific types of counseling services, prophylactic examinations and testing are defined by a separate order of the Health Minister (Note by UNICEF Bulgaria Country Office, 1 September 2017).
23 Source: Kazakhstan Code "On public health and health care system", 2014 and 2002 CRC initial Report for Kazakhstan.
24 Source: Romania Law 95/2006 on healthcare reform, Article 661.
25 Source: Temporary Standards of Provision of Medical Care to Adolescents and Youth: the Order of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine of 02 June 2009, # 382); Civil Code of Ukraine of 16 January 2003, # 435-IV
26 Source: Armenia Law on Health protection, 1996, Article 8.
27 Source: Bulgaria Health Act, 10 August 2004, Art. 87
28 Source: Kazakhstan Code "On public health and health care system", 2014 and 2002 CRC initial Report for Kazakhstan.
29 Source: Romania Law 95/2006 on healthcare reform, Article 661.
30 Source: Temporary Standards of Provision of Medical Care to Adolescents and Youth: the Order of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine of 02 June 2009, # 382); Civil Code of Ukraine of 16 January 2003, # 435-IV
31 Source: Armenia Electoral Code, 1999, Article 2.
32 Source: Bulgaria Constitution 13 July 1991, Art. 42; Bulgaria Elections Code 5 March 2014, Art. 243, 307.
33 Source: Kazakhstan Constitutional Law "On elections in the Republic of Kazakhstan", 1995.
34 Source: Romania Constitution, Article 36, 1991.
35 Source: Inter-parliamentary Union http://www.ipu.org/parline-e/parlinesearch.asp
*Number of bedrooms in a house is used as a simple proxy variable for income level, where having one’s own bedroom is a proxy for high income level; sharing a bedroom with one other person as medium income level; and sharing a bedroom with two or more people as low-income level.
For more details on ethical safeguards put in place for this research, please see the Phase 2 full report.
Conducting research with adolescents is complex. It requires that researchers strike a balance between the protection of adolescents while progressing with their participation in research, and ensuring that they participate in matters that affect them. Issues of harms and benefits, informed consent, privacy and confidentiality, and payment, require special considerations when conducting research with adolescents. To ensure high quality, ethical research, several considerations were made in the design, implementation and dissemination phases of this project, to ensure that the key ethical principles of respect, benefit, and justice were upheld at all times, regardless of context, including:
• Creating a special independent review board made up of experts in child rights and youth research, to review the research design, identify potential risks or harms the research could present, make recommendations, and give final approval for the study to proceed
• Measures to maximise benefit and reduce harms, including: a Safety, Confidentiality, and Privacy Protocols booklet reviewed and acknowledged by all project staff; screening and selection of qualified local facilitators, including mandatory background and police checks
• Extra measures to secure informed consent of adolescents below age 18 for both online survey and focus groups (see more below)
• Anonymous participation in the online survey and anonymising/asking identifying information in the focus group transcriptions, to protect the identities of adolescents (see more below).
The informed consent of the adolescent was sought on the first page of the online survey. Written in age-appropriate language, the introduction explained:
• The purpose of the research
• The types of questions asked and how long it would take
• How their answers would be used
• Which organisations were conducting the research, including contact information and a link to the project website for more information, and information on where the report would be published.
It also emphasised that the survey was voluntary and they could stop at any time, and that their answers would be anonymous and confidential. The adolescent was asked if they understood everything described, and they had to click “Yes” before the survey began.
Given the nature of the internet itself, parents have little ability to control which websites are accessed by their children except for the most extreme or inappropriate (e.g. by using parental controls or filters). As such, while parental consent was not actively sought, all reasonable steps were taken to inform parents/guardians about the survey, so that they were aware that their child might be participating in case there were objections. These steps included widely disseminating the survey on all public UNICEF communication channels in local languages, with contact details clearly available if parents had any questions. It also included a statement on the front page of the survey that encouraged adolescents to speak to their parents/guardians about the survey, and to tell them that they had completed it.
All adolescents in the focus groups were required to give their personal written consent prior to participation, in addition to parental/guardian consent. Invited adolescents were provided one information sheet describing the project written in youth-friendly language, one sheet written for their parent or guardian, and were asked to return a signed consent form with both their and their parent’s or guardian’s signature upon arrival to the focus group.
All participants in focus groups provided consent forms signed by parents, in addition to the adolescents themselves. There were two specific cases that require further elaboration: In one case, a focus group was held during an adolescent convention in
Kazakhstan, where adolescents were already gathered. Parental consent was given to attend the convention itself and indirectly, to participate in the focus group. However, recognising the specific situation of not having learned about the focus group until that day, the local facilitator made additional effort to seek signed and informed consent of the adolescents at the beginning of the focus group and it was sought throughout the focus group itself. The second case was with children who participated in a focus group but were without parents, and whose legal guardianship was transferred to an orphanage. In this case, the head of the orphanage provided signed consent.
Adolescents filled out the online survey anonymously and were only asked demographic information for the purposes of disaggregation (e.g. age, gender, location, ethnicity). Those participating in focus groups were asked their names in the session for easier communication, but their names were not recorded on paper. Focus groups were held in private locations and discussions were held outside of the listening distance of any other person. Participants in focus groups were also asked to uphold confidentiality among each other, and to not share what was said in the group with those outside of it. No photos or videos of the participants were taken.
Names of participants recorded in the audio taping were anonymised in the data transcription and translation, and any details that could identify individuals (e.g. school name, neighbourhood) were either masked (i.e. replaced with dummy information) or removed completely. All data is kept in digital files
that are password protected, and all data will be destroyed after a period of seven years, as per UNICEF Age Matters Safety, Confidentiality and Privacy Protocols.
Potential limits to confidentiality identified in the protocol include cases where an adolescent:
• Reveals information in a focus group that requires immediate action, such as when researchers suspect that a child is being abused or neglected
• Is being harmed or threatening to harm her/himself or another person
• Has a communicable or sexually transmitted infection which may place them and/or others at risk of harm.
No such incidents, where adolescents revealed they were in danger of immediate harm, occurred during the focus groups.
Adolescents in the focus groups received a small token of appreciation (e.g. coloured pencils, or a UNICEF-branded souvenir) at the end of their participation. This small gift was neither advertised beforehand nor used as a way to attract adolescents
to participate in the focus groups, but rather to demonstrate reciprocity with the adolescent and as a way to thank them for their time and contributions in the consultation process.
For more information on the Safety, Confidentiality, and Privacy Protocols used in this project, click here.