Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 September 2014, 13:37 GMT

2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Turkey

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 10 September 2009
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Turkey, 10 September 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4aba3ebac.html [accessed 16 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Selected Statistics and Indicators on Child Labor
Population, children, 5-14 years, 1999:12,065,538
Working children, 5-14 years (%), 1999:4.2
Working boys, 5-14 years (%), 1999:4.6
Working girls, 5-14 years (%), 1999:3.7
Working children by sector, 5-14 years (%), 1999:
     – Agriculture66.7
     – Manufacturing13.4
     – Services18.0
     – Other2.0
Minimum age for work:15
Compulsory education age:For 8 Years
Free public education:Yes
Gross primary enrollment rate (%), 2006:94.2
Net primary enrollment rate (%), 2006:91.4
School attendance, children 6-14 years (%), 1999:88.1
Survival rate to grade 5 (%), 2006:89.3
ILO Convention 138:10/30/1998
ILO Convention 182:2/8/2001
CRC:4/4/1995
CRCOPAC:5/4/2004
CRCOPSC:8/19/2002
Palermo:3/25/2003
ILO-IPEC participating country:Yes

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

In Turkey, children work in agriculture, in the citrus fruit, cotton, cumin, hazelnut, peanut, pulse, and sugar beet sectors. There have been reports of children working in the tobacco sector. In some parts of Turkey, children are engaged in seasonal commercial agriculture and face poor living and working conditions. They work long hours and are involved in harvesting, animal husbandry, forestry, weeding, and collecting water. Some of these children migrate with their families for 3 to 7 months at a time and have difficulty attending school.

Children also work in small-scale manufacturing, commercial offices, electrical repair services, educational and health services, construction, weaving, roofing tile and brick-making, machinery production, food processing, chemical production, metalwork, woodwork and carpentry, textiles, leather goods, shoe-making, and auto repair. There were reports of girls kept out of school to work in handicrafts, particularly in rural areas. Turkish children working in the furniture sector face health and safety risks, including exposure to dangerous chemicals and dangerous machinery.

Approximately 50,000 children work in the streets of the 10 provinces in Turkey where the problem is most acute. Children working on the streets are involved in shoe polishing; windshield cleaning; water carrying; scavenging through trash; selling tissues, chewing gum, flowers, or baked goods. There were reports of parents forcing their children to work on the streets and to beg. Street work makes children more vulnerable to sexual abuse, health hazards such as respiratory disease and infections, exposure to toxic substances, and alcohol and drug use. Children working on the street are also more vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking.

Turkey is reported to be a country of destination, and to a lesser extent transit country, for trafficking in children for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation.

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The law establishes the minimum age for employment at 15 years, and prohibits children under 16 years from working more than 8 hours per day. The law, however, allows children who are 14 years of age and have completed their primary education to perform light work that does not interfere with their education and does not hinder their physical, mental, or moral development. Such children are prohibited from working more than 2 hours per day or 10 hours per week. Before beginning a job, children 14 to 18 years must undergo a physical examination, which is to be repeated every 6 months. Children below 16 years are prohibited from employment in arduous or dangerous work. Under the law, persons should not be required to perform work unsuitable for their age or capabilities.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Security (MOLSS) has published a list of prohibited occupations for children 15 to 18 years. The law prohibits underground and underwater work for females of any age and for boys under 18 years of age. The law prohibits the employment of children under 18 years in industrial night work. Seasonal agricultural work, dangerous conditions in small-and medium-sized enterprises, and child labor in the streets are classified as the worst forms of child labor in Turkey.

Forced or compulsory labor is forbidden by law.

The minimum age for conscription into the Armed Forces is 19 years. The law prohibits prostitution under the age of 21 years and the sexual exploitation of children in the production of products. Child sexual abuse is punishable by 3 years to life in prison. The use of children in pornographic materials is punishable by imprisonment for 5 to 10 years. Article 80 of the Turkish Penal Code prohibits trafficking for both sexual exploitation and forced labor with penalties ranging from 8 to 12 years imprisonment. In 2008, 58 trafficking offenders were convicted, however only 13 under Article 80, while the rest were convicted under an older anti-trafficking statute, Article 227, which, for cases of children, prescribes 4-10 years imprisonment.

MOLSS conducted enforcement in workplaces that were covered by the labor law, including medium-and large-scale industrial and service sector enterprises. However, a number of sectors are not covered by the law, including agricultural enterprises employing 50 or fewer workers, maritime and air transportation, family handicraft businesses, and small shops employing up to three persons.

MOLSS inspectors are responsible for enforcing the child labor laws in Turkey and are instructed to prioritize complaints alleging child labor. As of February 2009 there were 603 labor inspectors operating in Turkey. According to the Labor Inspection Board (LIB), all have been trained in child labor issues, including how to identify underage children in the workplace.

LIB is responsible for conducting inspections of workplaces regarding a range of issues, including health, safety, work hours, salaries, leave, and compensation, and has identified instances where children have been working. However, according to USDOS, LIB does not have a data collection system that can allow for the tracking of punishments levied to individual workplaces found to be employing children.

The Turkish National Police (TNP) employs 3,500 officers tasked with addressing juvenile issues. However, these officers handle all issues related to the treatment and protection of children, and do not have a specific unit focused on child labor or exploitation.

Legal options available to Turkish government agencies that enforce child labor and worst forms of child labor laws include the removal of children from workplaces, fines, criminal complaints with the possibility of imprisonment, and the removal of children from the custody of parents/guardians found guilty of violating child labor laws.

The law establishes a set fine per child for workplaces found to be in violation of child labor laws. This amount can be raised annually by the Ministry of Finance.

The Commission on Child Laborers Working on the Streets investigates instances of child labor and proposes intervention programs.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of the Interior, including TNP and Jandarma, and MOLSS are the agencies most involved in anti-trafficking activities in Turkey, though other agencies, including the Ministry of Health and municipal governments are actively involved.

Current Government Policies and Programs to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor

In working towards meeting EU accession conditions, priorities for the Government of Turkey include fulfilling obligations to eliminate child labor. The Government of Turkey has developed a National Timebound Policy and Program Framework designed to eliminate the worst forms of child labor by 2014, which is proposed through a combination of poverty reduction, an increase in the quality and accessibility of education, and an increase in the social awareness and sensitivity of child labor.

Eleven provinces have developed provincial action plans to eliminate the worst forms of child labor in street work. An official from MFA serves as national coordinator for the Government's Task Force on Human Trafficking, which also includes representation from the Ministries of Health, Interior, Justice, Finance, Labor, the Prime Ministry, and from NGOs, IOM, and municipalities.

From 2004 to 2008, the Government of Turkey participated in a USDOL-funded USD 6 million project, Combating Exploitive Child Labor through Education in Turkey. The project targeted children working under hazardous conditions in seasonal agriculture in the provinces of Gaziantep, Sanliurfa, Elazig and Ankara. The project withdrew 461 children and prevented 2,009 children from exploitive labor. The Government of Turkey provides rehabilitation services to children withdrawn from the worst forms of child labor at 44 centers throughout the country.

The Prime Ministry's Social Assistance and Solidarity Directorate General (SYDGM) and the Prime Ministry's Social Services and Child Protection Institution noted that the primary reason that child labor continues in Turkey is family poverty. To help address this issue, SYDGM provided assistance and professional training to families with incomes below the poverty level. This assistance included direct provision of cash, food, fuel, and housing, as well as healthcare costs associated with children's school attendance. In rural areas, direct price supports and support for inputs were provided to farmers.

There are two NGO-operated shelters for trafficking victims, located in Ankara and Istanbul. These shelters received free rent from the municipalities, with the Ministry of Health providing free medical care to victims in the shelters. Government financial support for these shelters was inconsistent, and threatened the operation of one shelter, although core services were not impacted.

The Government of Turkey established a national referral mechanism in partnership with IOM and the shelters, which provided for the voluntary and safe return of trafficking victims. IOM assisted 78 trafficking victims in this regard during the reporting period. IOM operated a toll-free hotline for trafficking victims that could receive international calls, with provisions for Russian, Romanian/Moldovan, English, and Turkish languages. The Government began a new anti-trafficking public awareness campaign, featuring television and radio advertisements, along with more than 40,000 posters in municipalities throughout Turkey, to promote the hotline.

The Government encouraged trafficking victims to participate in investigations and prosecutions, although most victims chose to return to their countries of origin. The Ministry of Justice provided free legal services to foreign victims choosing to remain in Turkey to testify against traffickers. Foreign trafficking victims may apply for humanitarian visas to remain in Turkey for up to 6 months, and may apply for renewal for an additional 6 months.

Law enforcement officers, judges, and prosecutors in Turkey participated in "train the trainers" courses, which focused on counter-trafficking techniques such as victim identification and interviewing.

The Jandarma distributed a guidebook to educate officers to identify trafficking; authorities distributed informational passport inserts to travelers entering the country at designated ports of entry; and Turkish embassies provided trafficking awareness inserts to visa applicants in source countries.

The Government publishes an annual report on combating human trafficking in Turkey, and the Government's NATO Partnership for Peace training center hosted anti-trafficking training for Turkish, NATO, and Partnership for Peace personnel. The Partnership for Peace training center also hosts annual anti-trafficking training for Government of Turkey personnel assigned to peacekeeping operations.

The Government participated in international anti-trafficking investigations, and met on a regular basis with neighboring countries and regional groups promoting regional anti-trafficking law enforcement cooperation. The Government of Turkey has signed bilateral anti-trafficking MOUs and protocols with neighboring source countries, including Belarus, Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova, and Kyrgyzstan.

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