400,000 Syrians working unregistered in Turkey, fresh research reveals

400,000 Syrians working unregistered in Turkey, fresh research reveals

Şebnem Turhan – ISTANBUL
400,000 Syrians working unregistered in Turkey, fresh research reveals


Around 400,000 out of the total 2.2 million Syrian migrants currently living in Turkey are working as unregistered and undocumented workers, according to fresh research from Hacettepe University’s Center for Migration and Political Studies (HUGO).

The influx of Syrians fleeing the civil war in Turkey’s southern neighbor since 2011 actually exceeds the total number of migrants received by the country since the establishment of the Republic of Turkey in 1923. However, the number of Syrians working unregistered or illegally is unknown due to lack of research, prompting the Turkish Confederation of Employer Associations (TİSK) to prepare a report on the issue in collaboration HUGO.

The results show that 1.2 million of the Syrians currently in Turkey are under the age of 18, while 150,000 children have been born of Syrian parents in Turkey since 2011. 

The total number of Syrians in Turkey is estimated to be between 2.2 and 2.5 million, with around 90 percent of them living outside of the official refugee camps built near the border cities. The report estimates that the Syrian population in Turkey will increase to 3.5 million over next five years. 

Just 3,686 of the Syrians in Turkey are registered workers. The number of unregistered Syrian workers is 400,000, many of whom are children working in unhealthy conditions with low wages. 

Unregistered Syrian workers accept jobs at wages one-third of those received by Turkish workers on average, according to the report. Child labor is also a growing problem, with increasing numbers of Syrian children forced to work illegally. 

HÜGO head Murat Erdoğan said there are 150,000 unregistered Syrians in the southeastern province of Gaziantep alone, which borders Syria.

Meanwhile, almost all business established by Syrians in Turkey are unregistered. 

According to the TİSK-HUGO report, there are currently 600,000 school-age Syrian children in Turkey, but only 15 to 20 percent have access to education, heralding an impending generational catastrophe.

The report also estimates that the Syrian population in Turkey will increase to 3.5 million over next five years. 

As part of research for the report, 134 Syrian migrants were interviewed over five months, in 18 provinces where a majority of Syrians in Turkey are located.

The report found that the rate of people who are against the employment of Syrians in Turkey is 44 percent in those Syrian-heavy provinces, while this number is 48 percent in the other provinces.

What does the business world want?

- The registration system for Syrians should be reexamined so their qualifications can be determined in detail. This will help in deciding their potential workplace areas.

- It is highly possible that Syrians may harm the Turkish economy without creating employment if there is no comprehensive and integrated plan.

- Legal and administrational regulations, as well as registration and placement procedures, should be urgently carried out.

- Sector and region-based analyses should be conducted to allow Syrians to work under current conditions and remove uncertainty over their employment conditions.

‘Registered and limited employment’

Turkish Confederation of Employer Associations (TİSK) head Yağız Eyüboğlu has said there is unfair competition in areas where wages are being driven down due to the presence of Syrian workers, who are generally more willing to work for less. 

Underlining the business world’s demand for regulations on labor rights, Eyüboğlu said it was necessary to limit the employment of Syrians in certain regions and sectors according to their vocational competence. The lack of concrete and reliable data about the Syrian workforce in Turkey has prevented the implementation of the correct policies, he also said, urging a government ministry to coordinate this work. 

Eyüboğlu also stressed that the representatives of public institutions and NGOs should establish a common platform on the issue.