Syrians largely employed informally for bigger profits in Turkey

Research shows that most of the Syrian immigrants in Turkey are employed informally without work permits in favour of capitalists as the general working people are forced to longer working hours for lower wages
Syrian refugees, including children, work at a clothing workshop in Gaziantep, south-eastern Turkey @ AP Photo/ Lefteris Pitarakis
Thursday, 27 September 2018 21:22

A Turkish university’s study has revealed that the Syrian immigrant workers in Turkey face severe discrimination as they are forced to work longer hours for lower wages.

soL News talked with academic Gökçe Uysal, the deputy director of Bahçeşehir University Economic and Social Research Centre. She said that only 20 thousands of refugees have work permit despite the total number of 4 million refugees in total around Turkey since the capitalists often opt for employing the immigrant workers informally.


The Bahçeşehir University research centre’s study argues that the Syrian immigrants are employed with lower wages and longer working hours without any insurance in Turkey. Uysal said that there were two types of work permit in Turkey. One of them is ‘Turquoise Card’ system for “skilled workforce”, which is still unknown to many people, granting foreign people the right to reside and work permanently in Turkey.

As the Turkish companies should sponsor for work permits in Turkey, the Syrian immigrants can take this permit only via the Turkish firms. “The bosses do not want to employ the Syrians formally for various reasons,” Uysal told soL, because they have to regularly pay the workers’ social security premiums, thus employing the labourers cost much more for the bosses.

The university’s research centre could not benefit from the Turkish Statistical Institute’s data because of the lack of official data. The centre was in difficulty in collecting data among the Arabic-speaking people since most of them could not read and write in Arabic. Therefore, the centre tried to teach some young Syrian people living in Turkey about the survey procedures.

Uysal told soL News that most of the Syrian survey participators were reluctant to share information on their children in fear that they would be kidnapped since many Syrian children are employed as informal workers. She underlined that the exact number of the Syrian child workers was unknown, let alone where they were forced to work.

Uysal said that there was a 10 percent quota for foreign employment in Turkish workplaces, thus any workplace can employ up to 10 percent of Syrians even though the employees themselves are Syrian. The companies that want to employ foreigners over this rate should appeal to the Turkish employment agency; if the agency does not offer any Turkish citizens for the job, then this threshold could be extended.

“There are 4 millions of Syrians in Turkey, but the number of those who have been granted a work permit until now is around 20 thousand. Everyone knows that the Syrians are employed informally, but no legal regulation has been carried out in this sense,” Uysal said.

Uysal told soL that they confronted some reactions, particularly on social media with regards to their study. Some Turkish people criticized them, saying that they could not resolve their own problems, let alone that of the Syrians. “The unemployment is very high, and the wages are very low in Turkey,” she said, adding that the Syrians would continue to live in the country, which is why their access to basic needs should be provided, otherwise, some harmonization problems would occur.


As the worldwide tendency shows that the refugees and immigrants are directed to more severe working conditions, the conditions of Turkey-born workers are no better than that of the Syrian immigrants and refugees, who had to escape the Syrian war that had been incited by the Western imperialist bloc, including such actors as Turkey’s Islamist Justice and Development Party rule.

Although Turkey's Labour Law apparently prohibits the employment of children who have not completed the age of 15, given that all the people under the age of 18 are constitutionally regarded as children, the number of child workers under 15 is not clear. However, nearly 2 millions of children are working as registered or unregistered workers.

Of all several hundreds of thousands of child workers, only 150 thousands of them are registered as insured employees. According to the Turkish Statistical Institute, 78% of child workers are unregistered. 56 children lost their lives as a result of work-related deaths according to data from November 2017.  

In addition to the child labour exploitation, including both the Turkey-born children and immigrant foreigners, Turkey is the top country with the highest proportion of employees working very long hours among the OECD countries, with a population working 60 and plus hours per week. The OECD data show that the worldwide average is 5,1 with regards to the employees working 60 or over 60 hours per week, while Turkey grossly exceeds the average with 20,9 percent. 

Turkey’s capitalists opt for resorting to nationalistic sentiments in an attempt to confront the native workers with foreign labourers, mostly the Syrian immigrants, so as to further diminish the occupational rights and wages. The AKP rule has led to a richer capitalist class in defiance of the working people who are forced to work for longer working hours and lower wages under mobbing and arbitrary dismissals.