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. 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. An application for a work permit may be lodged following 6 months from the granting of temporary protection status, by the employer through an online system (E-Devlet Kapısı) or by the beneficiary him or herself in the case of self-employment.
The Regulation foresees an exemption from the obligation to obtain a work permit for seasonal agriculture of livestock works. In that case, however, beneficiaries must apply to the relevant provincial governorate to obtain a work permit exemption. The Ministry of Family and Social Services may also limit the number and provinces where temporary protection beneficiaries may work under seasonal agriculture of livestock jobs. 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.
When deciding on the granting the right to apply for a work permit, the Ministry of Family and Social Services takes into consideration the province where the beneficiary resides as a basis. 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.
The Ministry may also set a quota on temporary protection beneficiaries based on the needs of the sectors and provinces. 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.
As of 2022, the work permit fee for temporaray protection applicants was of 1.149,60 TL for jobs lasting more than 1 one year. Under the Regulation, temporary beneficiaries may not be paid less than the minimum wage. In May 2023, the minimum wage (net) was 8.506 TL (around 420 EUR).
The number of work permits issued to temporary protection beneficiaries has not been updated as from 2021. According to the Ministry of Family and Social services, a total of 168,103 work permits were issued including 91,500 to immigrants from Syria. Around 90% of work permits for Syrians were granted to men and around 5% to women.This means approximately more than 1 million Syrians are estimated to be working informally without legal protections and rights.
Despite the legal framework, substantial gaps persist with regard to access to employment in practice. Beneficiaries receive little or no information on the work permit system. Additionally, the process to obtain a work permit in Türkiye for Syrians is particularly difficult. In the frame of the EU-funded projects, during the second half of 2022, various initiatives implemented awareness-raising and capacity-building activities for businesses in an effort to improve refugee and vulnerable host community beneficiary access to the labour market. In the second half of 2022, these activities reached over 1,600 businesses, bringing the total number of businesses reached to date to 5,472 by the end of 2022. According to reports, the difficulties employers face in obtaining work permits for refugees, including the costs and waiting times, create significant disincentives to employ refugees.
Experiences of temporary protection beneficiaries in Türkiye regarding the integration process differ from city to city. However, “low wages”, “having to work informally / without security” and “language barriers” were the most reported problems in all provinces.
Syrians are impacted by the widespread practice of undeclared employment under substandard working conditions and low wages. A considerable proportion of Syrian craftsman and farmer Syrians who have been enable to join in the labour force on a regular or irregular basis, formally or informally, could work in positions in the agriculture sector that are relevant to their experiences in Syria or the professions they have gained in Türkiye. Syrians with professions such as teachers, lawyers, and engineers, on the other hand, either did not engage in the labour market because they could not find a job that matched their talents and expertise, or they were forced to accept jobs well below their qualifications. In 2022, the labour force participation rate of Syrians under temporary protection stood at 44% (81% for men and 14% for women) while around 10% of the estimated one million economically active refugees are currently employed formally.
There is a serious gap in the legal regulations of municipalities, which are local government units, for Syrian refugees. Metropolitan Municipality Law No. 5216 and Municipal Law No. 5393 do not contain any financial and technical regulations for the areas of providing services and assistance to refugees. This situation leaves the decision of the municipalities to help and provide services to foreign citizens, especially Syrians, living within their borders, to the initiatives of the municipalities. Refugees and host community members received a variety of employability capacity development and support services in the second half of 2022. During this period, an additional 3,916 beneficiaries were enrolled in short-term vocational training programmes. During the same time frame, nearly 12,000 individuals completed training designed to increase their employability. The majority of those who completed training in the six months preceding December did so through on-the-job training programmes. While very little progress was recorded for training in soft or life skills, outstanding progress was recorded for employment counselling services, with over 7,000 additional people benefiting. Since the project’s inception, a total of 111,312 people have benefited from this assistance. In the second part of the year, nearly 1,800 obtained official skill certification, of which 45 percent were Syrian refugees and nine out of ten recipients to date were men. To date, there is little evidence to suggest that the certification has substantially increased the beneficiaries’ employment and income levels.
Poor health and safety conditions at work are also a matter of concern. Health and Safety Labour Watch (İşçi Sağlığı ve Güvenliği Meclisi) is monitoring workplace homicides, including those of refugees and migrants. In December 2022, it was reported that 828 migrants lost their lives between 2013-2022 and 51% of the victims were Syrians. The most cases were reported from Istanbul (148), Sanliurfa (105), Konya (51) Gaziantep (48), Kocaeli (35), Ankara (30), agriculture, and constructions sectors sector were identified as the most dangerous sectors with a 29% and 25% homicide rate in 10 years. Refugee workers lost their lives in work-related accidents in 2022 including as a result of fires, equipment failure and road accidents.
Women, in particular, face significant challenges in obtaining effective access to the labour market. This is due, on the one hand, legal restricitons such as obstacles to access childcare, lack of information and training opportunities. On the other hand, traditional gender roles assigned to women as caretakers, especially in southern Türkiye regions such as Gaziantep, 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. In addition, where they do take jobs outside their homes, women in the textile sector often face discrimination and ill-treatment.
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 and textile factories.2018 was declared as the year of the fight against child labour in Türkiye. The (then) Ministry of Labour and Social Security announced a six-year National Action Plan to Fight Against Child Labour in 2017. According to the Turkish Statistical Institute’s 2019 child labour survey, there were 720,000 children aged 5 to 17 engaged in economic activities in Türkiye however this survey was critized for widely excluding Syrian child workers in the market. To fill this gap, a research conducted with 884 Syrian refugees and revealed a high proportion of employed Syrian children. 41% of Syrian respondents are aware of child labour in Türkiye, either within their own household (26%) or outside of it (15%) to inflation. Another report from 2022 revealed that children from undocumented or irregular families have less access to education and are more likely to engage in child labour in Istanbul.
Youth unemployment is another critical issue to which attention must be paid. According to TUIK, the youth unemployment rate in Türkiye among 18-29 year olds was of 22.2% in 2019. Average weekly work hours for Syrians are 59 hours, compared to 46 hours for Turkish employees. The majority of Turkish employees (87%) are paid on a monthly basis. Five out of ten Syrians are paid monthly, while four are paid weekly and one is paid daily. Less than half (46%) of Syrian young people reported no instances of mistreatment or violence on the job market. Among those who have been mistreated, financial abuse (22%), neglect (19%), emotional-psychological violence (17%), verbal abuse (11%), age discrimination (11%) and gender-based discrimination (8%) are the most prevalent. Being a woman, Syrian, or possessing a postsecondary degree increases the likelihood of experiencing mistreatment. The lack of access to education, the economic needs of the family, widespread prejudices against Syrians on the labour market, the language barrier, and inhumane working conditions have been identified as major obstacle by Syrian young people living in Istanbul.
Additionally, self-employed Syrians have encountered significant difficulties on the labour market. Several initiatives have been enacted beginning in 2021 to enhance the entrepreneurial skills and potential of self-employed Syrians. In the six months from July to December 2022, more than 500 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) received advisory services, bringing the total number of enterprises supported to date to 2,413. During the same time frame, 539 businesses received financial and/or material assistance, bringing the total number of supported businesses to 1,211. Access to financial services remains a persistent obstacle for SMEs due to a number of factors, including inadequate financial transparency, the absence of bankable business plans, low credit scores, and the inability to meet collateral requirements, especially for those with a limited operating history in Türkiye. Due to a lack of access to formal loans, Syrian small and medium-sized enterprises confront severe funding and credit constraints, forcing them to rely on alternative financing channels.
Through livelihood and employment opportunities, ICMPD, Ministry of Industry and Commerce-managed ENHANCER project seeks to facilitate the integration of Syrians under temporary protection in Türkiye into the local host communities. The project aims to increase the entrepreneurial activity of Syrians under Temporary Protection and Host Communities by fostering the development of new products and markets and providing a conducive environment. The initiative has been implemented in 11 provinces, Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Bursa, Gaziantep, Adana, Mersin, Konya, Sanlurfa, Kayseri, and Hatay, with a budget of 32,502,242 EUR. In 2022, an international network called SPARK organised series of activities to enhance the synergy between Syrian and Turkish entrepreneurs networks through round table events and trainings.
From July to September 2022, 848 young people visited the ‘Resilience Innovation Facility’ (FABLAB), which was created in collaboration with IOM and Gaziantep University, to take use of its co-working space, educational possibilities, and digital manufacturing, design, and prototyping laboratory. Fablab organised a series of training courses on topics such as Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Vocational Training, and Sensitization, as well as workshops and a Mentorship programme on leadership and confidence skills in collaboration with the Gaziantep Regional Industrial Design and Hybrid Modelling Centre (GETHAM). Furthermore, IOM organised group conversations for students of all genders to address various social and gender issues that affected them.
In the frame of the EU-funded projects, in the second half of 2022, 1,299 individuals received entrepreneurship training. As new initiatives expand their training-related activities in the upcoming quarters, it is anticipated that the total number of trained individuals will increase to just over 5,000.
 Article 29 TPR.
 Article 4(1) Regulation on Work Permit for Foreigners under Temporary Protection.
 Article 5(1) Regulation on Work Permit for Foreigners under Temporary Protection.
 Article 5(2)-(3) Regulation on Work Permit for Foreigners under Temporary Protection.
 Article 5(4) Regulation on Work Permit for Foreigners under Temporary Protection.
 Article 5(5) Regulation on Work Permit for Foreigners under Temporary Protection.
 Article 6(2) Regulation on Work Permit for Foreigners under Temporary Protection.
 Article 7(1) Regulation on Work Permit for Foreigners under Temporary Protection.
 Article 7(2) Regulation on Work Permit for Foreigners under Temporary Protection.
 Article 8 Regulation on Work Permit for Foreigners under Temporary Protection.
 Article 10 Regulation on Work Permit for Foreigners under Temporary Protection.
 Akyıldız, Ş., Kenanoğlu, M., Güven, S., Kurt, T., Doğanay, C., Kadkoy, O. for TEPAV (Turkish Economic Policy Research Foundation of Türkiye), Supply and Demand-Side Analysis of Syrians in the Labour Market, February 2021, available in Turkish at: https://bit.ly/3RcYolk. Page 66.
 Tüses & Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, ‘SUriyeli Ve Türkiyeli Genç Kadinlar Ve Erkeklerin Gündelik Yaşamlari: Küçükçekmece Ve Sultanbeyli’de Nitel Bir Araştirma’, 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3Og4iCY.