At least 513 child laborers have lost their lives in workplace accidents in Turkey in the last eight years, according to a report by the Health and Safety Labor Watch (İSİG).
The use of children in workplaces increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, the report says, with employers looking for cheap labor. Another factor contributing to the increase was the closing of schools during the pandemic.
The report said the number of child laborers around the world has started to increase in the last four years. In 2000 there were 246 million child laborers worldwide, decreasing to 152 million in 2016. But according to 2020 statistics there are now 160 million child laborers around the globe.
According to İSİG, Turkey is party to many international conventions aimed at preventing child labor; yet, the government does not fight the practice. “They instead try to legitimize it as part of their public affairs strategy,” the report said.
More than 720,000 minors in Turkey have to work to contribute to their household income, and 440,000 do not have any access to education, according to a report presented in parliament last week. Of these 720,000, 70.6 percent are boys and 29.4 percent are girls. The report said the majority of minors work in the industrial and service sectors, followed by agricultural labor.
But İSİG says the real figures are higher. “Statistics do not include immigrants or the 1.5 million minors working as interns and as part of vocational training,” the report said. “Moreover, surveys are conducted from October to December, a time period when seasonal work is the lowest. If we take these factors into account, number of child laborers in Turkey is above 2 million.”