Report reveals high number of child worker deaths in Turkey

Istanbul / Washington — A recent report on the state of child labor in Turkey said at least 695 child workers died in the country in the past 11 years.  

The report was published Tuesday by Health and Safety Labor Watch (ISIG), a civil society group in Turkey. The group compiled its dataset through open-source information and the families of the children who died while working. According to ISIG, at least 24 child workers died in the first five months of 2024.  

VOA sent a request for a comment to Turkey’s Ministry of Labor and Social Security, but it has not received a response yet.  

As of 2023, there were more than 22 million children in Turkey, which has a population of over 86 million, according to the state-run Turkish Statistical Institute (TUIK).

Education in Turkey is compulsory until the end of the 12th grade and public education is free of charge. However, the high school completion rate was 80.3 percent in 2023, a relative increase compared with 2022’s figure of 65.1 percent. 

Vocational training 

Some experts think the state-run Vocational Education Centers (MESEM) are behind the increasing completion number, which they do not view as improving the education rate.  

“Turkey has given up fighting against child labor for a long time. There are many practices that legitimize child labor, and MESEM comes first among these practices,” Ezgi Koman, a child development expert at Turkey’s nongovernmental FISA Child Rights Center, told VOA. 

Turkey’s Ministry of National Education (MEB) introduced MESEMs to the education system in 2016. The apprenticeship program enables students to learn the skills of an entry-level job and choose to be professionalized in one of at least 193 sectors provided by MESEM’s curriculum.   

MEB’s website says the program’s goal is “to meet our country’s need for people with occupation.” 

The students enrolled in MESEMs go to school once a week for theoretical training and work at a job assigned by the MESEM for four days. The program takes four years to finish and counts as the student’s last four years of compulsory education.  

MESEM’s enrollment requirements include completing the eighth grade, being over 14 years of age, signing a contract with a workplace related to the profession the child wants to pursue, and being in good health.  

The students must be insured for job-related accidents and injuries. They are paid at least 30 percent of the minimum wage in the first three years and at least 50 percent of the minimum wage in the fourth year. The minimum wage in Turkey in 2024 is around US$520 a month.  

“Our research shows that children who want to receive vocational training do not enroll in MESEM. Children who are already working are enrolled there. So, now, through MESEM, some of the children working unregistered are being registered in the labor force. MESEM is presenting them as receiving education,” Koman said. 

“However, there is no education. There are children left at the mercy of the bosses and labor exploitation,” she added. 

VOA Turkish requested a comment from Turkey’s Ministry of National Education, which oversees MESEM, but has not received a response. 

Yusuf Tekin, Turkey’s minister of national education, responded to a parliamentary inquiry about the injuries and deaths of students enrolled in MESEMs in March 2024. 

In the inquiry, Turan Taskin Ozer, an Istanbul deputy of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), asked about the number of injuries and deaths that occurred in MESEM programs since 2016. 

“The sectors of workplaces where accidents and deaths occur are predominantly construction, metal, woodworking, engine and machinery,” Tekin responded in a written statement. 

“A total of 336 students, 316 males and 20 females, had an accident,” Tekin added without disclosing the number of deaths.   

The ISIG report shows that in the 2023-24 academic year, at least seven children died while working in jobs that were part of their MESEM training.  

Refugee children 

The ISIG report also indicates that since 2013, at least 80 migrant children have died while working – 71 from Syria, six from Afghanistan and one each from Iraq, Iran, and Turkmenistan.  

According to the U.N. refugee agency’s annual Global Trends report, released in June, Turkey hosts 3.3 million refugee populations, including 3.2 million Syrians.

Refugee children in Turkey have the right to education. Still, some experts point out that refugee children face peer bullying and xenophobia at school, which leads them to end their education and start work informally.  

Turkey-based humanitarian organization Support to Life focuses on child workers in seasonal agricultural jobs, including migrant children. 

“The living conditions of Turkish, Kurdish or migrant seasonal agricultural workers are far from humane living standards,” Leyla Ozer, Support to Life’s project manager, told VOA. 

“Access to clean drinking water, electricity and toilets is limited. Families mostly live in tent areas they set up themselves. Conditions on agricultural fields are extremely challenging for children. Pesticides are a big threat, and labor is also added to this. Preventing child labor is vitally urgent,” Ozer added.  

ваше враження:

Discover more from УКРОПИ

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading