Turkey National Children’s Day: Child labor rate rises to 22 pct in 2023

While Turkey was celebrating Children's Day on April 23, the labor force participation rate in the age group of 15-17 was 22.1 percent in 2023 and more than 46,000 children are working on the streets according to the official TÜİK data. Turkey’s Worker Health and Work Safety (İSİG) Assembly stated that the number of child workers approached 3.5 million.

Duvar English

While Turkey was celebrating Children's Day on April 23, the labor force participation rate in the age group of 15-17 rose to 22.1 percent in 2023 according to the results of Household Labor Force Survey conducted by the state-run Turkish Statistics Institute (TÜİK).

The labor force participation rate of children was determined as 32.2 percent for boys and 11.5 percent for girls. In 2022, child labor rate was 18.7 percent, according to the reporting of the daily BirGün.

As a result of the field work carried out by the the Family and Social Services Ministry between June 2017 and December 2023, 46,754 children working on the streets were identified.

On the other hand, the children working in the Vocational Education Centers (MESEM), migrant children, and seasonal agricultural workers are not included in TÜİK's data. 

Özgür Hüseyin Akış, a member of the Worker Health and Work Safety (İSİG) Assembly, also stated that the number of child workers is approaching two million according to the data from the Confederation of Revolutionary Trade Unions of Turkey (DİSK).

"The number of students enrolled in MESEM is close to 1.5 million. The children in MESEM are not students, they are employed as workers. The number of child workers in Turkey has approached 3.5 million with those.”

Turkey’s Education Ministry launched MESEM project in 2016 allows middle school graduates to enroll in a one-year program where they can receive theoretical and practical vocational training. Students spend one day of the week in class, and four days apprenticing at a workshop or factory.

A total of eight children died, and two were injured in the first term of the 2023-2024 education year in these programs.

Akış noted, "The deepening poverty among families leads to child labor."

Stating that families employ children not out of choice but out of necessity, Akış underscored, "Child labor has been on the rise since 2018. The increase in inflation with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) programmes implemented by Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek is the cause of the increase in child labor."

Akış advised that a central economic model must be adopted to to eliminate child labor and added, “The capitalists demand child labor from the governments. They deem child labor cheap and easy to manage. Today, children have become a part of the working class."