Expanding The Support Of Employers in Regard To Child Labour Problem

Child labour is incongruous with any value developed through the second half of this century and every human rights convention. Yet, there are other things to be underlined presenting the same amount of incongruity: Poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, not being able to utilise from health services, social insecurity.

Which has a priority?

While saying that “children can not be worked”, it is supposed that they should be “looked after by their family”. In this way, “society” imputes the responsibility to the shoulders of the “families”; and the adults of these families find these children right beside, while struggling for “daily bread, job and future”. As a member of this family, a child is not able to stay unconcerned, while s/he is also struggling for life. Consequently, a child starts to work first with the aim of supporting her/his family, then with the concern of guaranteeing her/his own future.

At that point, it is pretty luxurious for this child to enjoy her/his childhood, have a quality education, not to work at “extreme” or “intolerable” jobs.

Nonetheless, the desperation of such a family would be reduced, as the level of income of this family increases and as the society takes on the “responsibility of these families”. It is at this time when such a family is able to make a choice.

It is frequently stated that children are the future of societies. And it is the most natural defence mechanism that societies attend to their future. For this reason, it is broadly agreed upon that child labourers should be protected and looked after. WHAT IS THE SOCIAL COST OF EMPLOYING CHILD WORKERS?

  1. These two factors make the societal future to be deprived of qualified manpower: children’s being involved in working life at an early age; their being withdrawn from the educational sphere.

  2. Children can tolerate the hardships, inconvenient conditions and oppressions of working life only with the desire that they would establish their own business in the future. This desire, on the other hand, would create a profile that small-scale enterprises are to be managed by uneducated people in the future.

  3. It is only the technological backwardness of enterprises that allows children to work. As a consequence of the utilisation of backward technologies by these workplaces, societies therefore come to face with unproductiveness, high energy consumption, environmental pollution, low standards and quality.

  4. Child labourers are required to work and produce resources for the public welfare, while their coevals attend schools and play in the parks by means of utilising from these public resources. They have no time to play, and they are not able to attend schools. This is injustice.

  5. It is a fundamental human right that children are able to attend schools, play games, develop their selves independently and to be fed. On the other hand, their being involved in working life –while abandoning all these rights- is a ground, sign and indicator for various human rights abuses.

  6. Employing child workers is a factor that effects the employment structure of a country and the situation of labour market at close ranges. It is both the cause and consequence of unemployment.

  7. These factors, effecting them at an early age, deepen the loneliness of child labourers: the struggle to remain standing alone at workplaces and among adult workers, not being able to spend times with their coevals. Whether they become employer or employee in the future, they remain away from any organised struggle or any process allowing them to insist on their rights. This is due to the fact that they are lacking in self-confidence and that they do not get acquainted with any co-operative struggles.

SOLUTIONS FOR CHILD WORKERS?It is the main objective that child workers should be urgently withdrawn from working life, and they should continue their education. Considering the ways to achieve this objective, there appears two steps to be considered. The first one is a long term objective that we wish to happen. The other one is the short-term objectives that “save the say” until the former is achieved.

  1. 2’nd Step (Long-term Objective): These should be eliminated: poverty, insufficiencies of the social security system, the concerns about finding a job in the future. These can be achieved only through convenient social policies.

Nevertheless, these can not be achieved in a day. Considering such a period in which the conception of social state is eradicated rapidly, it appears as a sole dream to except such an environment to be formed. What are we gonna do till this objective is attained? Are we gonna do nothing for today’s child workers?

  1. 1’st Step (Short-term Objective): Given the fact that there are some children who are required to work and who cannot be withdrawn from working life, working and living environment of these children should be meliorated. Their lives should be facilitated, and it should be endeavoured that they overcome this period with a minimum loss.


All human rights documents as well as our common sense maintain that children should not be worked at an early age.

Yet, the same documents and senses also propose that children should be fed, be well-educated, and when they become adults, they should be worked in healthy and safe conditions.

All the scientists (and behavioural scientists), among which Moslow has a great significance, put forth the fact that meeting the physiological necessities of people has an utmost priority.

In this way, these intervention priorities make the “tolerance” factor a current issue with respect to children’s being involved in working life. However, what is the limit of this tolerance?

In what conditions child labour should not be allowed to occur, whatever the cost is?

For this question, ILO’s replies in this way: “Intolerable forms of child labour that demand immediate action for their prohibition are the ones that violate fundamental human rights, of any kind of forced labour, all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, that procure or offer a child for prostitution, drug trafficking or pornographic performances, the works which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, are likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children, and the works in which children are exposed to chemicals, or they are worked with hazardous vehicles and machines…”

The conception of hard and hazardous works should be shed a light on:

  1. Children should not be employed in the works which are likely to harm the health and strength of children;

  2. In order to understand this, a child should be provided with a health examination before entering in a job;

  3. As long as a child works, the conditions of work should not harm his or her health;

  4. In a working environment, measurements like air, noise, dust, and etc. and the risk analysis should be realised;

  5. Children should be underwent medical examinations periodically (maximum in every 6 months);

  6. Children should also be able to enjoy their childhood, play games and meet with their coevals;

  7. Working hours of children should be diminished; youth centres and holiday camps should be devised in order to serve them to spend their leisure times together;

  8. It should be provided that these children would continue their education;

  9. For this, training seminars should be arranged for them to get information on “health + social + cultural” issues and to acquire vocational training;

  10. All these demands are also relevant for the adult workers. Because, they are “human”, too.

  11. All these can be achieved not by the individual will of a single employer, but by means of forming groups with the participation of various employers.


If we called this list only the “list of have’s”, there would be an opportunity for us to answer the propositions positively considering the conditions of our country. Yet, these have’s are limited in number and they do not cover everyone in this country.

For this reason, we may propose that “if the below mentioned lacks were turned to be have’s, there would not be any child labour in our country”.

The List of Lacks Considering the Living Conditions



Child Workers

The level of income allowing people to sustain a humane living



A social security system that is sufficient enough to guarantee people as a countermeasure against risks

Insufficient Insufficient

Vocational training processes that are occupationally guaranteed and sufficient for all children



Youth centres that allow children to spend their leisure times and that can be utilised by all children

Lacking Lacking


If these are made available, working children in our country would succeed in working in more convenient conditions. Let’s question the list for adults and children separately:

The List of Lacks Considering the Working Conditions



Child Workers

The level of income allowing people to sustain a humane living



A social security system that is sufficient enough to guarantee people as a countermeasure against risks

Insufficient Insufficient

Vocational training processes that are occupationally guaranteed and sufficient for all children



Youth centres that allow children to spend their leisure times and that can be utilised by all children

Lacking Lacking


If these are made available, working children in our country would succeed in working in more convenient conditions. Let’s question the list for adults and children separately:

The List of Lacks Considering the Working Conditions



Child Workers

Widespread utilisation of periodic medical examinations and first-in employment examinations



Carrying out these examinations by knowing and keeping in mind the job of the worker



Carrying out periodic environmental measurements at workplaces

Lacking Lacking

Utilisation from counselling services in order to make workplaces more convenient in terms of occupational health and safety issues

Lacking Lacking

Effectiveness of the occupational health and safety inspectors that are required to supervise whether the existing laws are well implemented



Designing of the personal protective equipments and their obtainment easily



Entering relevant data and statistical information in a register, and utilisation from these records in order to improve the services





  1. Because, necessary intervention mechanisms and maintenance services are lacking.

  2. In order to expose these deficiencies, sensitivity of public opinion and reactions of children and families are lacking.

  3. Although available as local and small-scale examples, information and interaction networks are lacking.


  1. If implementations do not go hand in hand with public sensitivity, there is always a way for “wrongs” to infiltrate.

  2. No government can be “strong” and “extravagant” enough to station an inspector in each workplace.

  3. If both employers and employees are not fully satisfied with the works should be done, the necessary “enthusiasm” does not come along. It is this “enthusiasm”, which is the essence of both living and developing.

  4. Leading to wrong implications to occur, if the conditions are not fully abolished, “local” rights appear on the scene, which bear the above mentioned conditions. However, these local centres are the ones that are relatively sensitive workplaces having much better working conditions. On the other hand, the ones insisting on the same “wrongs” are just like the opposite.

On that ground, if we are not able to implement the laws completely and prevalently around the country, it means that we send children into an exile from relatively better off working conditions to much worse ones.


All laws are appropriated in order to ensure social order, by means of lessons taken from life, and in line with the citizens’ sensitivities. In any case, isn’t it the lessons taken from life that create all kind of sensitivities?

Convincing employers to perform their responsibilities on taking precautions can only be achieved by means of raising their social sensitivities. Consequently and undoubtedly, they would also be convinced about complying with the rules determined by the relevant laws.

The model we implement is not based upon punitive sanctions, rather it gives preference to encouragement and persuasion about the benefits of these laws.

In fact, if any success is brought about by force, it is not a long-lasting one. Given the facts that occupational health and safety inspections reach to 8 % in our country and more than half of the workplaces (100 workplaces) that are utilised from our model have been provided with services since 1986, the success of the smiling discourse (soft negotiation) is proven. WHO IS RESPONSIBLE? EMPLOYERS?

It is one of the most important responsibilities of scientist to save people from “insubstantial” and “superficial” evaluations.

In our country, when we ask ordinary citizens to answer “who is responsible for child labour?”, the reply, in general, would be “the employers”. Yet, if we change the question and then ask “why these children work”, the answer would become “it is poverty that push children to work”.

While poverty, insufficiencies in the social security system, and concerns about finding a job in the future force children to be involved in working life, these factors also compel employers to appropriate such an inclination: the need for cheap labour, the desire for forming a good team for production, and traditional factors.

Therefore, it is the “whole society” that should be held in charge with “child labour problem”. In order to sustain the condition that children are not allowed to be involved in working life at all, the supports should be expected not only from the employers, but also from all segments of society.


Employers, while opening up their workplaces everyday, remain under various obligations. Some of these are legal obligations, while the others are the moral ones.

Some of these obligations embrace child labourers as well, yet some not.

However, whatever the reason is, employers are “indebted” due to their employing child workers. They should pay their debt back to society with respect to their gains acquired through employing “cheap labour”, and its paving a way for an increase in “social costs”.

As long as these debts are not paid back, they are transferred back to these employers again –since they use this output as an input as well- and to the people who consume these outputs.

On the other hand, since this circle is not able to eliminate the factors that push children to work, it paves a way for society to be indebted as well.


Considering the working life conditions, child labourers are under various risks. According to the definition made by World Health Organisation (WHO), these risks may be classified under three headings:

  • Physical;

  • Psychological;

  • Social.

If the risks come one the scene due to the nature of work or working conditions, the Labour Law holds employers responsible for the solution of the problems.

It also shows a way for the solution of these problems: taking preventive measures.

Before all else, employers should provide an environment for their employees –whether adult or children- to work in healthy and safe conditions.

And then, they should protect all workers (but especially the child workers) from the negative consequences of psycho-social factors.


CARRIED OUT IN COOPERATION WITH EMPLOYERS These are among the most important functions of societal organisations to realise studies for the solution of problems and to endeavour for public opinion to be formed. Through the experiences that have been accumulated since 1982, Fisek Institute proposes various suggestions in order to expand employers’ contributions on child labour problem. These suggestions are brought forth in line with two project contexts.



It is a model study that was put into practice in three industrialised cities’ (Ankara, Istanbul and Denizli) small-scale industrial regions and which finance itself only through the financial contributions of the employers.

Named as Fisek Model, this study is the product of a labour born in 1982, and it has been still carried out successfully (and in an improving way). The necessary financial resources that are required to sustain this study are obtained by the contributions of small-scale employers. These contributions are received in order to carry out the studies on the improvement of health services and working conditions with regard to health and safety of the workplaces. The institute provides these services free of charge for the children under 15 years old.

The institute was supported by two international organisations as well. In 1985, we received support from the Population Council/MEAwards; and in 1992-99, from International Labour Organisation/International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (ILO/IPEC). It was also supported for girl child workers-oriented project carried out in Denizli. These international contributions allowed us to make the necessary dashes for the sustenance of these projects. After these dashes, “sustainability” of these projects are achieved again by means of financial contributions of small-scale employers and by taking care of child and adult workers at these workplaces. Taking place at small-scale workplaces employing child workers or having a tendency to employ child workers, this model study is based on the service organisations that give a priority to preventive medicine approach.



Following the proposal of the Turkish Confederation of Employers Associations, a study was realised, which aimed to provide health monitoring services for 150 child workers in every 6 months and to uncover the heath problems of children working at Pendik Industrial Region, Istanbul.


Regarding the determination of an OBJECTIVE necessary for the solution of child labour problem, there appear two groups of employers:

  • Employers who employ child workers;

  • Employers who do not employ child workers.

There also appear two different types of STRATEGY to be implemented upon these two groups separately. For the first group, “persuasive” methods are utilised. Yet, the latter should also be employed as a “pressure group” with respect to its persuading the former one.

Employers who employ child workers: Persuasion

Employers who do not employ child workers: Pressure group persuading the former

Employing child workers and its consequences are not only the business of an employer who does this at his/her workplace. Rather, its consequences are spread out bit by bit, from its neighbouring workplaces towards the ones of the region, then the ones of the country.

Thus, the workplaces in which child labour is not allowed are also affected from this reality one way or another. Because,

  • They would also employ child workers, if the conditions become suitable for this;

  • They experience various inequalities when they compete with the former group at the market;

  • They would be subjected to the same treatment that the former group is subjected to, if they are utilising from the products of the former group as raw materials.

On that ground, employers should reduce these employment differences. In order to achieve this, new models may be appropriated, as well as the appropriation of Fisek Model may be widespread. In any way, a considerable effort should be made for raising the awareness of public opinion. This requires the fact that employers should co-operate not only among themselves but with other societal organisations as well.

Social indolence and insensitivity can only be eliminated as these examples are expanded, and the co-operative studies are realised not only for the long term objectives, but for the short-term ones as well. Most significant impediment against the solutions for societal problems is this “indolence and insensitivity” that regard everyone, but her/himself, as a “fool”.