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Press Centre (6/2014)

World Day Against Child Labour

Sema is 8 years old and has not been attending school for the last 4 months in June 2014. She is working together with her family as a seasonal agricultural worker to harvest crops. She said she starts working at 5 am till the sunset. 

Yusuf is 6 and he was asleep at 10:30 in front of the scales on the sidewalk. He is making money by weighing people on the streets.

Kemal is 13 and he is working in a mechanics shop. He is enrolled in 8th grade but he barely attends the school as he needs to take care of his single mother. 

ANKARA, 12 June 2014 -These are the stories of three children working the worst forms of child labour in Turkey, as defined by the Turkish government. The stories vary, the stories multiply.

Almost half of the working children work in the seasonal agriculture and anecdotal evidence shows that children do not attend school for more than 4 months and working more 10 hours under the sun in close contact with the agricultural chemicals, in some cases deprived of water and electricity, to contribute to the family income. They are deprived of their right to education, health, play, social protection, adequate standard of living, and sometimes even birth registration.

Secondly, children working in industry are open to risks, occupational hazards, injuries and accidents. Some of them work in the industry outside of the scope of vocational training and are vulnerable to the violation of the right to be protected from economic exploitation, right to education, right to social protection and right to live.

Children working on the streets is the other worst form of child labour in Turkey. Children starting from the age of 5 work on the streets selling napkins, flowers. They are not only vulnerable to accidents, injuries and hazards but also open to many risks from the environment. They are deprived of the right to play, right to be in a family environment and right to be protected from economic exploitation.

The Government of Turkey has prepared Time Bound Policy and Programme Framework in 2005 to eliminate worst forms of child labour by 2015. According to the figures of TURKSTAT, there has been no change in number from 2006 until 2013. There are still more than 800.000 children, between the ages of 6-17, working in an economic activity, excluding millions working in domestic chores.

UNICEF appreciates steps taken by the Government of Turkey’s all relevant ministries, including Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Ministry of National Education, Ministry of Family and Social Policies, Ministry of Development and local authorities.  Given the fact that there is one year left to meet the commitment of elimination these three worst of forms of child labour, we need further action and act together to:
  • give a special emphasis on the children working in the seasonal agriculture to make sure that their rights to education, health and play are realized and their families are provided necessary financial assistance not to need their children as labour force in order to contribute to family income and social support mechanisms for their children both in the provinces the seasonal agricultural workers depart and arrive to remove children from the agricultural fields;
  • put further legal instruments and supportive policies in place to ensure that children at the age 13, by the time they finish second phase of 4 years of education, are refrained from working both in economic activities in industry or service sector but also in excessive domestic chores and home-based work until they reach the legal age, 15 years, of working as a result of two years gap between the labour law and education law;
  • take necessary measures to eliminate the risk that the children will not be involved in heavy and hazardous work as a result of  the removal of by law prohibiting the children between the ages of 15-18 not to be involved in heavy and hazardous work;
  • strengthen social protection umbrella to further support families with children to prevent children taking part in economic activities.
Today is 12 June, the World Day against Child Labour. Much progress has already been made but there is still a long way to go. It is time to end these stories. For the children of Turkey.

For more information, please contact:

Iraz Öykü Soyalp, UNICEF Turkey Social Policy Officer, Tel: +90 312 4541000, iosoyalp@unicef.org
Sema Hosta, UNICEF Turkey Chief of Communications, Tel: +90 312 4541000, shosta@unicef.org   
UNICEF Turkey Country Office, Yukarı Dikmen Mah. Alexsander Dubçek Cd. 7/106, 06450 Çankaya/Ankara. Telephone: +90 312 454 1000 Fax: +90 312 496 1461 E-mail: ankara@unicef.org