03/07/2024, 11.21
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Turkey, minors and deaths at work: 13 in 2024, 671 in 11 years

Data collected by İsig speak of 1932 'white deaths' last year, including 54 minors. For the current year, the double-digit figure has already been exceeded, with an upward trend compared to the past. The highest number of accidents in the summer season, when children are employed in the agricultural sector. The apprenticeship system Mesem of the Ministry of Education is in the crosshairs.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) - In February, at least 144 people died in workplace accidents in Turkey, with an average of at least five deaths per day, a slight decrease compared to the 158 recorded in January.

For 2023 the overall figure is 1932 "unrelated deaths". This is what emerges from the monthly report prepared by the experts of Health and Safety Labor Watch (İsig) and relaunched by the activist site Bianet, which highlights a further critical factor: the deaths of minors in the workplace. In fact, at least six "child workers" under the age of 18 died in February, in addition to the seven in January for a total of at least 13 since the beginning of the year.

As for child victims in the workplace in February 2024, at least one of these was under 14 years old and another five were between 15 and 17 years old. Broadening the field to other age groups, there were 28 workers between 18 and 29 years old, 61 between 30 and 49, another 35 between the ages of 50 and 64, while 10 were over 65 years old. Finally, the age of another four at the time of death in the workplace is unknown.

Isig experts explain: “Considering that more than half of the deaths of child workers occur in the agricultural sector [in a period of time from May to September] we must note that this year there is already a significant increase in victims among minors ”.

Among the reported cases is that of Yasin D., 13 years old, who was crushed between the rear door of a truck and a wall while transporting firewood to a bakery. And again Furkan Ç., 17 years old, who fell asleep inside a car he was repairing in a workshop and was poisoned by the exhaust fumes. Another is Arda G., 17 years old, who was trapped between a wall and an industrial elevator he was repairing on the 7th floor of a workplace.

Murat Can E., among those enrolled in Mesem [these are professional training centers launched as part of a program promoted by the Ministry of Education], who fell from a 13-storey construction site where he worked. Baran G., a 16-year-old courier, who on board his motorbike collided with another while delivering an order. Finally, Deniz Tutan, aged between 15 and 17, committed suicide in a paper collection center where he was employed.

Extending the count to the last 11 years, there are at least 671 minor victims in the workplace, the majority of which - reports the Isig - as part of training and apprenticeship programs aimed at children under 18. In recent weeks, experts have published a detailed study on "unrelated deaths" among minors, dedicating the work to 14-year-old Arda Tonbul and 15-year-old Erol Can Yavuz, who died during internships in workplaces affiliated with professional training centres.

The incidents triggered a controversy over child labor now regulated by Mesem, but the system started in 2016 with the "Apprenticeship Training Centers" then integrated into the education system.

“A practice - explain Isig experts - which serves to produce qualified intermediate labor and export low-cost labour”. There are at least 1.5 million students who fall within the scope of Mesem, of which 300 thousand are under 18s who attend "school one day" and the other four do "vocational training and start-up".

Favoring the choice of the school-work model is the widespread poverty of many families, who choose to interrupt their traditional studies to secure additional forms of income and thus support the family budget. In the past, sector experts conclude, there were already "thousands" of child workers; however, the worsening of the economic crisis recorded since 2021 - driven by the Covid-19 pandemic - has pushed "people of all ages to join the army of workers in search of a minimum source of income".

Finally, as regards child deaths at work, we went from an initial annual figure of 59 recorded in 2013 to 54 last year, with a peak of 67 which occurred for three consecutive years from 2018 to 2020.

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