Child workers make up large portion of Turkey’s labour force

syrian child labour
A Syrian child worker in Turkey

Turkey’s labour and social security Minister Mehmet Muezzinoglu has said there are almost 100,000 child workers in Turkey in response to Republican People’s Party (CHP) MP Attila Sertel’s parliamentary question on child labour.

Muezzinoglu said the exact number of child workers under the age of 18 was 94,124, excluding interns and technical trainers, as of October 2016.

According to the Education and Science Workers’ Union (Egitim-Sen), there are around a million child workers with half of them working in the agriculture sector to contribute family income.

The number of children who work at homes for free, meanwhile, was revealed to be around 7.5 million. The report showed that among working female children whose ages range between 6 and 14, %75 of them work as agricultural labour, 16% of them work in the service sector, while another 8% work in industry. For child workers whose ages range between 15 and 17, meanwhile, the respective distribution of percentages was 46, 33, and 22, as the report stated.

UNICEF and the Support to Life Association reported that the southeastern province of Sanliurfa tops the list of provinces with the highest number of child workers. 15% of children who do not attend school work 12 to 14 hours per day in the province, the report added.

According to the Turkish Statistical Institute (TUIK)’s poll in 2012 there are about 893,000 child workers in Turkey.

194 children have lost their lives while working or going to work, with most deaths occurring due to ‘accident’s during transportation, followed by instances of poisoning, choking, falling and crushing, according to the Worker Health and Work Place Security Council’s January 2013-June 2016 data reported.

The humanitarian crisis following the war in Syria has meant 4.8 million Syrians have fled the war and sought refuge in neighbouring countries. 2,7 million Syrians are officially registered in Turkey, half of which are children, according to UNICEF.

UNICEF’s report “Child Labor in Turkey: Situation of Syrian Refugees and the Search for Solutions,” stated that in 2015 the number of businesses fined for violating the ban on employing child labor decreased to 27%. The organisation stated that the Turkish textile industry increasingly relies on Syrian children’s cheap labor.