Child labor is more of an issue than the ‘image of the sector’

Child labor is more of an issue than the ‘image of the sector’

Daily Hürriyet reporter Burak Coşan has documented child laborers between the ages of 10 and 14 who work for 12 hours a day at unregistered textile workshops in Istanbul’s Küçükpazar neighborhood. 

Following this story, managers of professional unions issued several statements, somehow only focusing on the aspect that these kinds of stories create a perception that deteriorates Turkey’s image, which in turn stimulates the possibility of damaging businesses.   

The textile sector, they said, was under suspicion because of these pirate workshops, which caused trouble for textile investors when signing international business contacts. 

Is our real concern “the damage caused by these images to exporting firms?”  

No, sir; our real concern is having child laborers working in unsafe environments. The heads of professional unions have also said that “the state should control these working conditions. They should take measures.” 
Well, would the child labor problem be solved with control? No, it would not. 

The reason is that, child labor, just like child marriages, is an accepted phenomenon in the society. In the “Workplace Murders Almanac 2016,” lawyer Seda Akço has spoken about a prejudice, which is totally wrong but has been accepted in the society. 

We regard kids who start working at early ages as those who mature much faster when compared to their peers. We also believe that the working life teaches the realities of life to children at an early age. “As a matter of fact, the circumstances serve an aim that is just the opposite of maturing,” Akço said.

Akço believes that controlling workplaces would not eliminate the problem. According to her, a system to support and monitor the attendance of children in schools should be formed. “I think children born in Turkey are a little unlucky. This is because they are born to a society that has not fully comprehended its responsibility to the child,” she said.  

When we say child laborer, we are face to face with a bigger and more fundamental issue than the lack of control, we are confronting poverty. 

In this country, almost 1 million children are employed; more than 7 million children are made to work in household chores. This is because 21.9 percent of us are poor. The rate of financial deprivation is 30.3 percent. Among these, the rate of those who cannot afford food is 35.8 percent. 

As Seda Akço has stated, “Child labor cannot be prevented by laws that ban it. Laws are necessary but they are not adequate to prevent it. One has to look at the adequacy of laws that may have an effect on changing the conditions that necessitates the child to work.”  

These could be, according to her, a basic income assurance or child support, adding a preventive feature to the legislation that regulates determining the minimum wage. 

In other words, textile managers who frequently refer to bans, laws and controls, as a matter of fact, discuss the matter insufficiently. 

If they abandon the attitude as if they were the center of the world, then at least they would be angry at the state for correct reasons. 

The state should support families in childcare because people who live at the poverty threshold cannot find any other way out other than making use of child labor.  

This country’s textile sector has more urgent issues to be solved than its deteriorating image. It is the children who have to work or forced to work; it is those children who age before they grow up.