Turkey joined the world in marking World Children's Day yesterday and hosted children from across the country at Parliament for the 19th National Children's Forum.
This year's theme for the forum, attended by 245 child delegates, was child labor - a problem that plagues Turkey despite extensive countermeasures.
Prevalent among impoverished families and families with abusive parents, child labor continues to disrupt the lives of thousands forced to work and skip school.
Speaking at the forum, Family, Labor and Social Services Minister Zehra Zümrüt Selçuk said Turkey mobilized 130 teams of inspectors to monitor violations of regulations that ban child labor. They stopped the recruitment of more than 11,000 child workers, according to October data.
Turkey struggled with an ailing economy for decades as well as a mindset tolerating child labor. As a result, it was one of the first countries to participate in the International Labour Organization's International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) that was launched in 1992. This year was designated the "Fight Against Child Labor" year by the country that also launched an action plan for 2017-2023 to eliminate child labor. The plan aims to develop fundamental strategies and activities to prevent child labor as well as set timelines for activities to be carried out by cooperating institutions and organizations. It also aims to spread public awareness to fight child labor.
No official or recent data is available on the number of child laborers, but a 2012 survey by the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat) shows that out of 15.25 million employees, some 292,000 are aged between six and 14, and 601,000 were between the ages of 15 and 17. In total, official estimates in 2012 found around 1 million child labors in the country.
Selçuk says they also provided financial aid to the families of 2,969 child laborers and the families of 3,757 children were provided counseling services against child labor.