Child Labour

What is child labour?

Considerable differences exist between the many kinds of work children do. Some are difficult and demanding, others are more hazardous and even morally reprehensible. Children carry out a very wide range of tasks and activities when they work.

Defining child labour

Not all work done by children should be classified as child labour that is to be targeted for elimination. Children’s or adolescents’ participation in work that does not affect their health and personal development or interfere with their schooling, is generally regarded as being something positive. This includes activities such as helping their parents around the home, assisting in a family business or earning pocket money outside school hours and during school holidays. These kinds of activities contribute to children’s development and to the welfare of their families; they provide them with skills and experience, and help to prepare them to be productive members of society during their adult life.

The term “child labour” is often defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development.

It refers to work that:
  • is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children; and
  • interferes with their schooling by:
  • depriving them of the opportunity to attend school;
  • obliging them to leave school prematurely; or
  • requiring them to attempt to combine school attendance with excessively long and heavy work.

In its most extreme forms, child labour involves children being enslaved, separated from their families, exposed to serious hazards and illnesses and/or left to fend for themselves on the streets of large cities – often at a very early age. Whether or not particular forms of “work” can be called “child labour” depends on the child’s age, the type and hours of work performed, the conditions under which it is performed and the objectives pursued by individual countries. The answer varies from country to country, as well as among sectors within countries.

The worst forms of child labour

Whilst child labour takes many different forms, a priority is to eliminate without delay the worst forms of child labour as defined by Article 3 of ILO Convention No. 182:
  1. all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, such as the sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage and serfdom and forced or compulsory labour, including forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict;
  2. the use, procuring or offering of a child for prostitution, for the production of pornography or for pornographic performances;
  3. the use, procuring or offering of a child for illicit activities, in particular for the production and trafficking of drugs as defined in the relevant international treaties;
  4. work which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children.

Labour that jeopardises the physical, mental or moral well being of a child, either because of its nature or because of the conditions in which it is carried out, is known as “hazardous work”.

Facts and figures

  • Global number of children in child labour has declined by one third since 2000, from 246 million to 168 million children. More than half of them, 85 million, are in hazardous work (down from 171 million in 2000).
  • Asia and the Pacific still has the largest numbers (almost 78 million or 9.3% of child population), but Sub-Saharan Africa continues to be the region with the highest incidence of child labour (59 million, over 21%).
  • There are 13 million (8.8%) of children in child labour in Latin America and the Caribbean and in the Middle East and North Africa there are 9.2 million (8.4%).
  • Agriculture remains by far the most important sector where child labourers can be found (98 million, or 59%), but the problems are not negligible in services (54 million) and industry (12 million) – mostly in the informal economy.
  • Child labour among girls fell by 40% since 2000, compared to 25% for boys.
Source: Marking progress against child labour - Global estimates and trends 2000-2012 (ILO-IPEC, 2013).

The Context of the Child Labour Problem in Turkey

In 1992 Turkey was one of the initial six countries to undertake direct action to combat child labour through IPEC programs and assistance. The Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Turkey and the ILO was signed in 1992 and was extended till September 2006. There was a total number of 101 action programmes implemented from 1992. IPEC projects carried out over the last 12 years have reached approximately 50,000 children. Sixty percent of these children have been withdrawn from work and placed in schools. The remaining 40 percent have benefited from improved working conditions and health, nutrition and vocational training services. Furthermore, approximately 25,000 families have received counselling services and assistance. The strategies developed and objectives of the Programme are coherent with national policies and objectives and reinforce and strengthen existing national structures.

The problem of child labour is one that Turkey , as every country in transition, needs to address. The problem needs to be viewed in terms of demography, educational levels, economics and social development. 

As a country, Turkey is in transition from a rural to an urban setting and from an agricultural to an industrial economy. The trend of migration to major metropolises, together with the disintegration or non availability of familiar social support network, means the phenomenon of working children is becoming more apparent, particularly, the numbers of children working in marginal sectors and on the streets in order to help support family income levels.