Access to the labour market

Turkey

Country Report: Access to the labour market Last updated: 31/05/21

Author

Independent

Legal conditions and obstacles to access in practice

Temporary protection beneficiaries have the right to apply for a work permit on the basis of a Temporary Protection Identification Card, subject to regulations and directions to be provided by the Presidency.[1] The Regulation on Work Permit for Foreigners under Temporary Protection, adopted on 15 January 2016, regulates the procedures for granting work permits to persons under temporary protection.

Temporary protection beneficiaries are required to apply for a work permit in order to access employment.[2] An application for a work permit may be lodged following 6 months from the granting of temporary protection status,[3] by the employer through an online system (E-Devlet Kapisi) or by the beneficiary him or herself in the case of self-employment.[4]

The Regulation foresees an exemption from the obligation to obtain a work permit for seasonal agriculture of livestock works.[5] In that case, however, beneficiaries must apply to the relevant provincial governorate to obtain a work permit exemption.[6] The Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Services may also limit the number and provinces where temporary protection beneficiaries may work under seasonal agriculture of livestock jobs.[7] Beyond special rules in the context of agriculture and livestock work, the Regulation prohibits beneficiaries from applying for professions which may only be performed by Turkish nationals.[8]

When deciding on the granting the right to apply for a work permit, the Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Services takes into consideration the province where the beneficiary resides as a basis.[9] However, it may cease to issue work permits in respect of provinces which have been determined by the Ministry of Interior to pose risks in terms of public order, public security or public health.[10]

The Ministry may also set a quota on temporary protection beneficiaries based on the needs of the sectors and provinces.[11] The number of beneficiaries active in a specific workplace may not exceed 10% of the workforce, unless the employer can prove that there would be no Turkish nationals able to undertake the position. If the workplace employs less than 10 people, only one temporary protection beneficiary may be recruited.

The work permit fee is 378.70TL .[12] Under the Regulation, temporary beneficiaries may not be paid less than the minimum wage.[13]

The number of work permits issued to temporary protection beneficiaries has slowly increased following the adoption of the Regulation on 15 January 2016. In Şanlıurfa, for example, the Association of Syrian Businessmen has signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the investment of 80m TL to establish 20 factories with a total employment capacity of 1,500 workers.[14] According to the Ministry of Labour, Family and Social services, the number of companies having at least one Syrian founder is 15,159 as of 29 February 2019.[15]

In 2019 a total of 145,232 work permits were issued including 63,789 to immigrants from Syria. 93% of work permits for Syrians were granted to men and 7% to women.[16]

The main occupations for which Syrian temporary protection beneficiaries received work permits are as follows:

Work permits to temporary protection beneficiaries by profession: 1 Jan 2016 – 30 Sep 2018
Profession Number of permits
Manual labourer 2,411
Textile worker 1,117
Errands runner 653
Physician 554
Nurse 543
Administrative manager 521
Office clerk 460
Support staff 452
Cleaner 433
Others 20,786
Total 27,930

Source: ODATV: https://bit.ly/2TOfQ5v.

In 2019 work permits issued mainly to immigrants from Syria, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine and Turkmenistan.[17] Syrians received by far the greatest number by a wide margin at 63,789 permits. Nevertheless, these figures show that the number of work permits issued still represents a small percentage of the temporary protection beneficiaries between the age of 19 and 64 in Turkey.

Civil society organisations are an important employer for Syrians under temporary protection. According to stakeholders, there were 150 national and international NGOs and about 14,000 employees working in Gaziantep by the end of 2015. However, as of that date, the state started strictly monitoring international NGOs working at the border. Irregularities on the part of international NGOs in relation to the obligation to employ people with work permits have led to a significant number of administrative fines. In one case, the Magistrates’ Court of Hatay has annulled such a fine on the ground that it is incompatible with the a special protection provisions for humantiarian aid NGOs in the Law on Work Permit of Foreigners and the Refugee Convention.[18]

Despite the legal framework introduced in 2016 to regulate access to the labour market for temporary protection beneficiaries, substantial gaps therefore persist with regard to access to employment in practice. Beneficiaries receive little or no information on the work permit system, as the number of community centres providing information about such opportunities remains limited; 16 centres were operated by Türk Kızılay as of January 2020.[19]

Working conditions

Temporary protection beneficiaries in Turkey are impacted by the widespread practice of undeclared employment under substandard working conditions and low wages.[20] Undeclared employment flourishes in the agricultural sector, particularly in provinces such as Adana.[21] Despite initiatives such as a recent UNHCR-funded agricultural skills training in southeastern Turkey,[22] Syrians work long hours – in many cases exceeding 11 hours a day – for 38 TL / approx. €4, a portion of which is withheld by “handlers” (elciler) who act employment agents.[23] In other provinces such as Muğla, undeclared employment frequently occurs in the construction sector,[24] while in Ankara it is prevalent in the furniture manufacturing industry in Altindağ. In Istanbul, a report published by the United Metalworkers’ Union (Birleşik Metal İşçileri Sendikası) on the situation of Syrian refugees in the textile industry.[25] According to the report, the wages of 46% of Syrian and of 20% of Turkish workers are below the minimum wage level. It can be said that the minumum wage is not applicable in textile ateliers operating without licence (Merdıvenaltı atölyeleri). In terms stratification of wages in the labour market, Turkish men are at the top, followed by Turkish women, while Syrian men close to the bottom and Syrian women at the bottom.

Unacceptable labour conditions in urban centres have often led to large-scale movements such as a November 2017 strike of shoemakers (saya iscileri) in major cities including Istanbul, Izmir, Adana, Gaziantep, Konya and Manisa, demanding lawful employment and better working conditions in workshops.[26]

Poor health and safety conditions at work are also a matter of concern. According to Health and Safety Labour Watch 112 refugee workers lost their lives in work-related accidents in 2019 including as a result of fires, equipment failure and road accidents.[27]

During the COVID-19 pandemic, labour demand emerged in some work areas because some Turkish citizens did not go to work due to COVID-19 restrictions. Syrian refugees met some of this demand but for very low wages, especially in the southern parts of Turkey such as Mersin, Adana, etc. They also faced important difficulties in accessing remote education and social assistance. This situation was not only specific to Syrians but all seasonal agricultural workers. There were also concerns about a lack of hygiene equipment and of masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Protective equipment was supplied by NGOs, the UN, the EU and some municipalities but it was not systematic nor regular.[28]

Women, in particular, face significant challenges in obtaining effective access to the labour market. This is due, on the one hand, to obstacles such as lack of childcare and lack of information and training opportunities.[29] On the other hand, traditional gender roles assigned to women as caretakers, especially in southern Turkey regions such as Şanlıurfa, mean that women’s access to public space is limited compared to men, while training opportunities mainly revolve around traditional vocations such as hairdressing or sewing.[30] In addition, where they do take jobs outside their homes, women in the textile sector often face discrimination and ill-treatment. This is namely the case for ateliers operating without licence (Merdıvenaltı atölyeleri) in Istanbul, where women and girls work in the rear of basements and in windowless rooms for long hours.[31]

The Association for Migration Research conducted field research with 48 Syrian women from 3 different provinces in Turkey (Mersin, Gaziantep, and Izmir). All interviewees were low-wage workers employed under precarious conditions. Most of the participants could not work outside due to pressure from their male relatives or husbands, which meant piece work was the main form of employment. Those who worked outside explained that they needed their male family members’ consent to continue working. Women encounter various difficulties in accessing the labour market, such as building social relations, finding a safe workplace, as well as a lack of language proficiency and education. NGOs were regarded as ideal workplaces for refugees. However, several cases of discrimination were also reported by interviewees. For example, five women working for national NGOs reported that they were subject to differentiated treatment compared to their Turkish colleagues. In addition, NGOs mostly hire employees on a project basis for specific time periods which can often be inconsistent for refugee women. However, working for NGOs offered relatively better working conditions compared to other options such as retail jobs and day care work. Interviewees employed in the textile industry worked more than 12 hours a day and even the highest salary was reportedly below the minimum wage. Informal employment also caused discriminatory work practices.[32]

The situation for women was also significantly impacted during Covid-19. A shoemaker spoke of the hardships of keeping up with housework while making shoes at home. The financial situation of families who live on waste collection were considerably affected by lockdown measures with many saying they had to choose between providing food for the household and buying necessary sanitary equipment such as masks.[33] A study with 300 women refugees in Izmir found that 84.5% of the participants lost their jobs in the course of the pandemic and 83% of those who are employed had problems relating to their salaries.[34]

The Turkish labour market also presents high exploitation risks for children, given the widespread phenomenon of child labour and exploitation in areas such as agriculture,[35] textile factories,[36] as well as restaurants in cities such as Ankara. In the textile sector, approximately 19% of the workforce is underage, while this number is as high as 29% in respect of Syrians. Syrian working children under the age of 15 are much more visible in the industry than Turkish children.[37] The Worker Health and Safety Council documented the case of a 5-year-old Syrian child forced to work in Gaziantep in 2017.[38] According to the Turkish Medical Association, children in textile industries work 12-hour shifts for 300 TL a month.[39]

2018 was declared as the year of the fight against child labour in Turkey. The (then) Ministry of Labour and Social Security announced a six-year National Action Plan to Fight Against Child Labour in 2017 and a project of 10 milion TL was announced for NGOs and public authortities to conduct activities in ten pilot cities during this period.[40] Dedicated monitoring bodies were set up for the purpose of preventing child labour in six cities under that National Action Plan.[41] The bodies continued to be active in 2019. Monitoring Commissions held meetings every month and raised awareness among NGOs and other public bodies.[42] A new project “The Elimination of Child Labour in Seasonal Agriculture” with the International Labour Organization (ILO) Office for Turkey in cooperation with the General Directorate of Labour of the Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Services (MoFLSS) and with funding from the European Union (EU) started in October 2020. Work will be undertaken to reach out to working children, families, employers, school administrators, teachers, mukhtars (village/neighbour masters) and agricultural intermediaries to withdraw children from labour and redirect them to schooling, as well as strengthen the capacities of national and local institutions.[43]

 

 

[1]   Article 29 TPR.

[2]  Article 4(1) Regulation on Work Permit for Foreigners under Temporary Protection.

[3]  Article 5(1) Regulation on Work Permit for Foreigners under Temporary Protection.

[4] Article 5(2)-(3) Regulation on Work Permit for Foreigners under Temporary Protection.

[5] Article 5(4) Regulation on Work Permit for Foreigners under Temporary Protection.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Article 5(5) Regulation on Work Permit for Foreigners under Temporary Protection.

[8] Article 6(2) Regulation on Work Permit for Foreigners under Temporary Protection.

[9] Article 7(1) Regulation on Work Permit for Foreigners under Temporary Protection.

[10] Article 7(2) Regulation on Work Permit for Foreigners under Temporary Protection.

[11] Article 8 Regulation on Work Permit for Foreigners under Temporary Protection.

[12] See: http://www.calismaizni.gov.tr.

[13]Article 10 Regulation on Work Permit for Foreigners under Temporary Protection.

[14]Hürriyet, ‘Suriyeli iş adamlarından Türkiye’ye yatırım’, 7 October 2018, available in Turkish at: https://bit.ly/2OfIAy9.

[15]Mültideciler Derneği, ‘Türkiyedeki Suriyeli Sayısı’, March 2020, available in Turkish on: https://bit.ly/2JncqPt.

[16]  Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Services, Work Permits of Foreigners, 2019, page 14, available at: https://bit.ly/2QbV8Mw.

[17] Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Services, Work Permits of Foreigners, 2019, page 14, available at: https://bit.ly/2QbV8Mw.

[18]  1st Magistrates’ Court of Hatay, Decision 2016/180, 31 March 2016.

[19] For more information, see Türk Kızılay, Syria crisis: Humanitarian relief operation, October 2018, available at: https://bit.ly/2UUS3h0.

[20]Refugees International, Legal employment still inaccessible for refugees in Turkey, December 2017, 7. For a discussion of the impact on the labour market, see Ege Aksu et al., ‘The impact of mass migration of Syrians on the Turkish labour market’, Koç University Working Paper 1815, December 2018, available at: https://bit.ly/2U64aKJ.

[21] Information provided by a lawyer of the Adana Bar Association, February 2018.

[22] Food and Agricultural Organisation, ‘Syrian refugees acquire agricultural job skills and work opportunities in Turkey’, 29 November 2017, available at: http://bit.ly/2z44zPs.

[23] On Izmir, see Association of Bridging People, ‘Seasonal agricultural labour in Turkey: The case of Torbalı’, 13 December 2017, available at: http://bit.ly/2AupjAr. On Adana, see Development Workshop, Fertile lands: Bitter lives – The situation analysis report on Syrian seasonal agricultural workers in the Adana plain, November 2016, available at: http://bit.ly/2BL7EJH; IRIN, ‘The never-ending harvest: Syrian refugees exploited on Turkish farms’, 15 December 2016, available at: http://bit.ly/2CKijRs.

[24] Information provided by Bodrum Women’s Solidarity Association, December 2017.

[25] United Metalworkers’ Union, Suriyeli Sığınmacıların Türkiye’de Emek Piyasasına Dahil Olma Süreçleri ve Etkileri: İstanbul Tekstil Sektörü Örneği, June 2017, available in Turkish at: http://bit.ly/2DIrq6p.

[26] Göçmen Dayanışma Ağı, ‘About saya (shoe-upper) workers’ resistance’, 1 December 2017, available at: http://bit.ly/2B8UCSo.

[27] More information is available in Turkish at: http://bit.ly/2UiMtpE.

[28] Information provided by a stakeholder, March 2021.

[29]Refugees International, Legal employment still inaccessible for refugees in Turkey, December 2017, 5, 11-12.

[30] Rejane Herwig, ‘Syrian Women’s multiple burden at the labour market and at home’, 3 December 2017, available at: http://bit.ly/2kNpSQ8; ‘Strategies of resistance of Syrian female refugees in Şanlıurfa’ (2017) 3:2 Movements, available at: http://bit.ly/2CK78bN.

[31] Papatya Bostancı, ‘“Çalışanı Meşgul Etmeyin”: Merdivenaltı Tekstil Atölyelerinde Mülteci Kadın Olmak’, 30 September 2017, available in Turkish at: http://bit.ly/2CLBLNF.

[32]  Suriyeli Kadınların Çalışma Deneyimleri ve Toplumsal Cinsiyet İlişkileri, April 2020, available in Turkish at:  https://bit.ly/3rPzwCm.

[33] Voice of the Subject: Migrant Women’s Labour During the Pandemic, 23 December 2020 : available at: https://bit.ly/31NUUgJ.

[34] Association for Solidarity with Syrian Refugees, COVID 19 Pandemisinde Mülteci Kadınların Temel Haklara Erişimine İlişkin Araştırma Raporu, 2020, available in Turkish at: https://bit.ly/3uJnV9T.

[35] Development Workshop, Analysis of legislative gaps and recommendations in the context of preventing child labour in agriculture, August 2018, available at: https://bit.ly/2HyTvCm; See also Adana Bar Association, ‘Baromuz Doğankent çadır bölgesindeki Suriyeli mülteci çocukları ziyaret etti’, 17 January 2018, available in Turkish at: http://bit.ly/2Hv1w89.

[36] European Commission, Education and Protection Programme for Vulnerable Syrian and Host Community School-aged Children, in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, Ares(2017)3292256, 30 June 2017, available at: http://bit.ly/2BMs0SK, 4. See also Birgün, ‘Günde 12 saat çalıştırılıp ayda 300 TL kazanıyorlar’, 20 August 2018, available in Turkish at: https://bit.ly/2HG2KzY; Siyasi Haber, ‘’; Deutsche Welle, ‘Small hands, big profits: Syrian child labour in Turkey’, 5 December 2017, available at: http://bit.ly/2BLmIqF; Financial Times, ‘A day on the factory floor with a young Syrian refugee’, 20 September 2017, available at: http://on.ft.com/2hh9Tbh; BBC, ‘Child refugees in Turkey making clothes for UK shops’, 24 October 2016, available at: http://bbc.in/2ey7Zka

[37]  United Metalworkers’ Union, Suriyeli Sığınmacıların Türkiye’de Emek Piyasasına Dahil Olma Süreçleri ve Etkileri: İstanbul Tekstil Sektörü Örneği, June 2017, available in Turkish at: http://bit.ly/2DIrq6p.

[38] Worker Health and Safety Council, ‘Göçmen çocuk sömürüsü: 5 yaşında çocuklar çalıştırılıyor’, 28 March 2017, available in Turkish at: http://bit.ly/2FoFzpu.

[39] Birgün, ‘Günde 12 saat çalıştırılıp ayda 300 TL kazanıyorlar’, 20 August 2018, available in Turkish at: https://bit.ly/2HG2KzY

[40]National Action Plan for the Fight against Child Labour, 29 March 2017, available in Turkish at: https://bit.ly/2GhE6q0.

[41] Information provided by Development Workshop, February 2019.

[42] Information provided by a stakeholder, March 2020.

[43]  See, ILO, A New Era Starts in Combating Child Labour in Seasonal Agriculture, 23 November 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/3oq24SU.

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of main changes since the previous report update
  • Introduction to the asylum context in Turkey
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • Temporary Protection Regime
  • Content of Temporary Protection