Number of child workers nears million in Turkey

School has started for close to 18 million children in Turkey, but upward of a million of their peers are currently engaged in child labor, according to a number of new reports.

According to the 2015-2016 term education reports published by a Turkish education union, Eğitim-Sen, there are around a million child workers, half of whom are in the agriculture sector, who are working to contribute to their 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, the percentage of those who work in the agricultural sector is 75, 16 percent work in the service sector, while 8 percent work in industry. For child workers whose ages range between 15 and 17, meanwhile, the respective distribution of percentages was 46, 33, and 22.

According to another report prepared by UNICEF and the Support to Life Association, the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa tops the list of provinces with the highest number of child workers. In 15 percent of Şanlıurfa families, there is at least one child who is working. It also showed that a wide number of working children, aged around 14, are faced with physical violence and abuse at work. Some 15 percent of children who do not attend school work 12 to 14 hours per day in the province, the report added.

Another report by DİSK-AR showed that in 2015, children aged between 6 and 14 worked 28 hours per week; those aged between 15 and 17 worked 45 hours per week, while children who do not go to school worked 54 hour per week.

Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions’ (DİSK) energy head Müslüm Baran said institutions that worked to prevent child labor in Turkey were failing to have an effect and that the use of child labor had increased in recent years in provinces like Mardin, Gaziantep, Kilis and Şanlıurfa due to the cheap labor force supplied by Syrian refugees in the agriculture and service sectors.

Over the last 3.5 years, 194 children have lost their lives while working or going to work, with most deaths occurring due to accidents 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 report.

Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK) 2013 data also showed that among child workers who receive a wage, 3.4 percent had experienced injury; 34 percent faced exhaustion; one-third were not provided with food; 36 percent did not have weekly days off; and 89 percent did not have yearly paid days off.

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