Young at Work

Bangladesh, Burma/Myanmar, Poland, Slovakia

Although illegal in most countries, child labor still continues all over the world, especially in developing countries. It is estimated that more than 168 million kids worldwide are working long hours under harsh conditions. In countries affected by poverty and unemployment, child labor often seems the only way for families to survive. In other cases, like organized begging, children are forced to work. Since 2002 the global child labor force has decreased by a third.

michaelbiach_youngatwork-5701Two boys working for a sub-contractor of a garment-factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

michaelbiach_youngatwork-8193A young Roma boy is forced to beg in the streets of Bratislava, Slovakia. He was playing his accordion in several locations across the city, always only for a limited time to avoid being picked up by Slovakian police.

michaelbiach_youngatwork-5461A young boy working in a shipyard in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

michaelbiach_youngatwork-6118New roads are constructed in remote Chin-State, Burma, often with the use of low-paid child labor.

2014_Walbrzych-2236Two teenagers in Walbrzych, Poland, are searching for ‘black gold’ in an illegal coal mine. The boys work on their own and are selling the coal to friends and neighbors in order to earn some money.

michaelbiach_youngatwork-5366A young boy working in a shipyard in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

michaelbiach_youngatwork-5088A young girl is selling bells on the streets of Yangon, Burma.

michaelbiach_youngatwork-5713Boys working for a sub-contractor of a garment-factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

 

Searching for Poland’s (Black) Gold

Poland

About a year ago two private treasure hunters, Piotr Koper and Andreas Liechter, announced that they have found a secret tunnel in Poland’s Lower Silesia that may hide a train full of stolen gold and artwork from World War II. Since then hundreds of treasure hunters made their way to search the area around the former coal mining town Wałbrzych.

Recently Koper and Liechter have brought heavy equipment to Wałbrzych and began to remove earth on Monday to search for the hidden Nazi gold train. Although historians doubt such a train has ever existed, the treasure hunters are still optimistic that within the next days they will find what they are looking for.

Not so long ago I spend some time in Wałbrzych with illegal coal miners searching for Poland’s real treasure, the ‘Black Gold‘:

Walbrzych_Roman Janiszek_100_7617

For centuries coal mining has been the most important industry in Walbrzych, Poland. However, in the 1980s many of the coal mines became unprofitable. With Poland’s transformation from a state-directed to a free-market economy in the 1990s, nearly all of the coal mines in Lower Silesia were shut down. Thousands of people became jobless.

The area still has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country despite new industry settling in the area. It didn’t take very long until the jobless miners in the area started to dig for coal on their own.

2014_Walbrzych-1779

2014_Walbrzych-1611

2014_Walbrzych-2236

The business is dangerous and illegal. Tunnels leading as deep as ten or fifteen meters below the ground are only protected by wood and sandbags. Inside, people dig for coal the same way they did centuries ago, by hand. Police regularly arrest illegal coal miners and confiscate their equipment, so most people dig by night to avoid police control. Not only the well-educated former miners search for ‘black gold,’ but also young and unexperienced jobless men risk their freedom and their lives to make a couple of Euros a night by selling illegal coal to residents.

2014_Walbrzych-1834

2014_Walbrzych-1963

2014_Walbrzych-1898

2014_Walbrzych-1817