At least 513 child laborers have lost their lives in the last eight years in Turkey, according to a report released by the Workers’ Health and Work Safety Assembly (İSİG) on June 11.
The report said that the number of child laborers increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, due to the decrease in household incomes, employers' preference for cheap labor and exclusion of adults from the employment sector.
“Turkey has signed many agreements in terms of prevention of child labor. But, as a part of its public relations strategy, the political rulership prefers to justify child labor, instead of preventing it,” the report said.
The Turkish Statistical Institute gives the number of child laborers as 720,000 but in fact this number falls short of reflecting the reality, as their numbers are believed to be at least 2 million, according to the report.
“Some 30.8 percent of child laborers in Turkey are working in the agricultural sector, whereas 23.7 percent are working in the industry sector, and 45.5 percent in the service sector,” the report said, adding that children are pushed to “heavy and dangerous works.”
Of the 513 children who lost their lives in the last eight years, 59 died in 2013, 54 in 2014, 63 in 2015, 56 in 2016, 60 in 2017, 67 in 2018, 67 in 2019, 68 in 2020, and 19 in the first five months of 2021, according to the report.
Fifty-eight percent of the killed children were migrants and were working mostly in the construction, agriculture and forestry sectors.
Some 169 of the killed children were aged 14 or below, the report said, emphasizing that the government's policy of impunity is behind failure to save children from exploitation.
Calling for a legal ban on child labor, the report said: “Impunity is widely seen in work accidents/murders that have taken place.”