‘Poverty rivalry’ among the poor in Turkey

‘Poverty rivalry’ among the poor in Turkey

There is a change in the story of poverty in Turkey. As those at the lowest level of the social income ladder climb over time, other groups take over the “poverty duty.” 

Seasonal mobile agricultural labor is one of the stops where different social groups take over at different times. Poor people from Georgia, Azerbaijan and Syria are added to the existing workers from Turkey’s east and southeast. Now they are all struggling to do the same job – struggling with each other and also with workers from Turkey. This is reflected in wages and conditions. 

The most recent field reports show that poverty has turned into a competition between the poor. More than one group is competing for the same job at the same time. 

With the addition of foreign migrant workers from different countries to the workers of different ethnic origins, rivalry within the poor has been fueled. The report says that with the inclusion of the Syrians in agricultural production, a portion of local workers have been excluded and worker fees have declined. The most important criteria in wages is whether or not there is competition among agricultural workers. The lowest wages are in Gaziantep and Çukurova because there are many Syrian workers there. 

The Syrian workers picking apricots in Malatya generally work for two-thirds the daily allowance of local workers. While local shepherds earn 3,000 Turkish Liras per month in Malatya, Syrian shepherds are happy with 1,000 liras. 

Child labor is also prevalent among Syrians in Turkey. With so many Syrian families struggling to continue their struggle for life, many family members have to contribute, which leads to child labor. The low rate of schooling among Syrian refugees leaves only one choice for the children: To work out in the fields and orchards. 

Besides all the obvious difficulties, migrant workers are also discriminated against. They are more subject to racism, ethnic discrimination, maltreatment and bad working conditions than local workers. For instance locals in Kars, Ardahan, Ordu, Giresun and Trabzon do not want Syrians in their province. The reason why the number of Georgian workers is increasing in the hazelnut harvest in the Black Sea region is that the owners of orchards do not want to hire Kurdish workers. 

Apparently seasonal mobile agriculture labor, with the addition of foreign migrant workers, carries the potential to ignite clashes among workers. The increase in labor supply, the lack of any rise in fees, and the decrease in the amount of work and income per family, deepen labor abuse and create clashes between local workers and especially Syrian workers. This tension is likely to rise further. 

Life is difficult for Syrians in Turkey. The existence of working conditions that are incompatible with human dignity makes the country yet another field of struggle, rather than a final escape destination. 

Studies clearly show that in order to secure the protection of millions of migrant workers - almost all of whom are unregistered - and for them to obtain a secure status, Turkey needs to make significant changes in its refugee regime.