Survey shows 38 percent of children live in extreme poverty across Turkey

Thirty-eight percent of children in Turkey lived in households suffering from severe material deprivation in 2016, an increase of 1,6 percent over the previous year, according to a report from the Bahçeşehir University Center for Economic and Social Research (BETAM).

The rate is the worst in Europe.

According to a report by the Hürriyet Daily News, the survey by İstanbul-based BETAM published on April 20 revealed that 7,51 million children in Turkey aged 0 to 15 suffered from the effects of material deprivation in 2016, an increase of 300,000 compared to 2015.

The European Union defines the criteria for severe material deprivation as a household that cannot afford at least four of the following: Rent payments; mortgage or utility bills; adequate house warming; unexpected expenses; meals involving meat, chicken or fish every second day; a one-week annual holiday away from home; and a washing machine, color television, telephone or car.

Severe material deprivation rates among children are around 3 to 5 percent in Denmark, Austria, Germany and France. They range between zero and 3 percent in Sweden, Luxembourg, Finland, the Netherlands and Norway, according to the research.

“From 2015 to 2016, the rate of children living in extreme material poverty in Romania, Greece, Cyprus, Ireland and Turkey increased. In other countries, on the other hand, extreme material poverty among children has decreased. The fact that most  EU countries have covered a distance in the fight against child poverty, while in Turkey child poverty has increased, shows that policies pursued regarding this issue are not enough,” the report stated.

The highest rate of children living in extreme poverty in Turkey was in the southeastern region, with 55,4 percent. The lowest rate was seen in the Western Anatolia region, with 23,6 percent.

“The main reason for the gap between regions in terms of material poverty in children is the current great difference between median incomes. The second most important reason is the high average number of children per household mainly in the eastern regions,” the report added.

Some 70,7 percent of children lived in families who are unable to take a one-week annual holiday, while 40,8 percent of children were unable to meet their protein needs from red meat, chicken or fish in 2016. Some 48,4 percent of children lived in households that did not own a car. The increase in the percentage of children living in families who could not afford adequate heating from 2015 to 2016 was also noteworthy, increasing from 20 percent to 28,1 percent.


The total number of child workers aged 15-17 was 708,000 in 2016, slightly lower than the 716,000 the previous year, according to a report prepared by the Education and Science Workers’ Union (Eğitim-Sen) for April 23, National Sovereignty and Children’s Day, the anniversary of the foundation of the Turkish Parliament.  The corresponding figures were 601,000 and 709,000 for 2012 and 2014, respectively.

The Eğitim-Sen report notes that students who receive vocational education and work as interns in the service sector, particularly in the tourism industry, and students enrolled in apprenticeship training programs are not counted as “child workers.” The report cited data from the Turkish Statistics Institute (TÜİK), which shows 78 percent of child workers were unregistered as of 2016. According to the Eğitim-Sen report, three child workers who were employed as farm laborers have been killed in 2018.

The number of court cases regarding child abuse has tripled in the past decade, while there was a 50 percent increase in cases over the past five years, the Eğitim-Sen report also said, citing data from the Justice Ministry. On average, 8,000 children are sexually abused each year, while 17,000 child abuse cases are filed in court. Suspects are not convicted in 45 percent of those cases.

In the last 10 years, the state allowed a total of 482,908 underage females to be married, the report said. Some 142,298 underage females have given birth in the past six years, it added.


Meanwhile, a report released by main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu showed that the right to life of at least 3,936 minors has been violated in the last seven years. Another striking finding of the report is that in 2015 and 2016, the number of children who were killed in conflict increased dramatically.

According to the report, between the years of 2012 and 2017, 369 minors were killed in workplace accidents. The report also indicates that between 2011 and 2017, 136 minors in total were killed in areas of conflict. In 2015 and 2016, when months-long curfews were imposed and conflicts occurred in several cities of Turkey, especially in the southeastern provinces of Diyarbakır, Hakkâri, Mardin and Şırnak, 106 minors lost their lives.

According to the report, in the last seven years, 351 minors lost their lives due to violence in general. Sixty-eight minors were killed for this reason in 2017, making it the year with the highest number of child mortality cases caused by violence in general between 2011 and 2017.

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