What Is The Public Cost Of Child Employment?


Working Children & Health


  • Early child employment and withdrawing from education deprive the community of high quality labor force in the future.
  • Children bear difficulties, unfavorable conditions and disgraces in working life for the sake of setting up their own job in the future. This will lead a country profile made up of mostly small scale enterprises managed by low educated people.
  • Only low technology allows child employment. Thus, the community encounters low productivity, high energy consumption, environmental pollution, low standards and quality.
  • Working children has to produce sources for the public while other children of the same age benefit from these sources, go to school or play in the parks. Working children can not go to school and have no time to play. This is inequity.
  • Children have the right to eat, to play, to go to school and to develop their personalities freely. Leaving all these aside for working is a ground, or indicator, for all breakings of human rights.
  • Child employment has a close influence on the employment status and job market of the country. It is both the reason and the outcome of unemployment.
  • Working children have to survive among the adults and are far from other children of the same age from the beginning. Since they feel alone and insecure, do not know solidarity and working together; they will be far from organized struggle and demand for rights either as an employer or an employee in the future.


The main objective is to remove children immediately from working life and maintain education. This will require two stages:

1st STAGE (Long term objective): To eliminate poverty, problems in education and social security system, unemployment in the future. These can be done by social policies. However, this objective can not be achieved in a short time. Especially in my country where social state is diminishing rapidly, it is a dream to expect such conditions.

What shall we do until we reach our objectives? Shall we do nothing for the working children of today?
2nd STAGE (Short term objective): Working and living environment of children who must work, should be improved. Efforts should concentrate to ease their lives and to live this period with minimum damage.


All documents on human rights and our common sense tell us that young children should not work. However, the same documents and senses anticipate children to eat enough, to have a good education and work in a healthy and safe environment when they grow up.

All scientists (and behavioral scientists) suggest that meeting basic physiological needs is the first priority for humans. These priorities bring a “tolerance” element into consideration in child employment. What is the limit of this tolerance? Under which circumstances should child labor strictly forbidden?

ILO put forward the answers below to this question:
The concept of “heavy and dangerous jobs” should be clarified.

  • Children will not be employed in jobs inappropriate for their power and health.
    • For this evaluation, a medical examination will be done in job entry.
  • Their work will not harm their health.
    • Measurements of air, noise, dust, etc. and risk analyses will be made in the working environment.
    • Periodical health checks will be performed (at least two times a year).
  • Children will enjoy their childhood, play and meet with other children.
    • Working hours will be shortened, youth centres and holiday villages will be built to make them spend their leisure time together.
  • Children will continue their education.
    • Training seminars should be organized to give them both occupational and health-social-cultural information.
  • All these demands also relate to the adult workers. Because adult workers are also humans.
  • Employers can provide these services by coming together and forming groups.


If we have called this list as “list of presents”, there would still be an opportunity in our country to give a positive answer. Unfortunately, the number of “presents” are very limited and do not cover every individual.

Therefore we can say that, if the absents in the list below had been present, there would be no child labor in our country. If we evaluate the list for adults and children;

Adults Working children
Income enough to maintain a socially acceptable life standard Inadequate Inadequate
A social security system enough to cover risks Inadequate Inadequate
Occupational training procedures to cover all children with job security Absent Absent
Youth centres for leisure time, open to all children Absent Absent

If the absents in the list below had been present, children would have acquired better working conditions. If we evaluate the list for adults and children;

Adults Working children
Routine job entry and periodical health checks Limited Absent
Performing health checks by taking the job of the worker into account Absent Absent
Regular environmental monitoring in workplaces Absent Absent
Using consultancy services for the improvement of health and safety in the workplace Absent Absent
Efficiency of occupational health and safety inspectors Limited Limited
Design and availability of personal protective equipment Inadequate Absent
Keeping a reliable information system and using it for the improvement of the service Absent Absent


  • There are not any intervention mechanisms and services.
  • The public has no sensitivity and children and their families do not react against this situation.
  • The flow of information and interaction are inadequate although there are some small and local examples.


  1. If the implementation is not covered with public sensitivity, the “wrong”1 finds a hole to pass.
  2. No government is powerful and extravagant enough to put an inspector in each workplace.
  3. If the work done is not approved by both the employer and the employees, no “circle of enthusiasm” will appear. Enthusiasm is the heart of production, life and development.
  4. If the reasons of wrong implementation can not be eliminated, the “right”2 emerges in local focuses having the conditions stated above. These focuses are workplaces which are more sensitive and have better conditions, contrary to the ones insisting on the “wrong”.

1 Wrong: Child employment
2 Right: Child unemployment

SOFT NEGOTIATIONLaws are made to organize public behavior, based on life experiences and sensitivity of citizens. As a matter of fact, sensitivities are derived from life experiences.
Employers can be convinced to fulfil the obligations by increasing their sensitivity. Definitely, they should be encouraged to obey the rules. But our model puts forward encouragement and convincing rather than punishment.In fact, forced success will not last long. In our country, only 8% of the workplaces are achieved by occupational health and safety inspection. However, more than half of 100 workplaces which our model is implemented, have been serviced for more than 12 years. This shows the success of “soft negotiation” approach.WHO IS RESPONSIBLE, THE EMPLOYER?One of the most important duties of the scientists is to avoid easy solutions and superficial evaluations. When we ask “Who is responsible from child employment?” to ordinary people, it is much probable to blame the employer. But when the question is ““Why do children work?” the answer will be “poverty”.Poverty, inadequate education and social security system and worries about employment in the future drive children to working life. The need for a cheap labour force, a productive team and traditions force the employer to adopt this inclination.
Thus, the community is responsible from the phenomenon of working children. The contribution to the elimination of child labour should be expected from all parts of the community, not from the employers alone.WHO OWNS THE DEBT?Employers have many responsibilities when they open the door of the workplace every day. Some of them are legal obligations while the others are moral. Some of them include working children, and some do not.In any case, the employer has a “debt” due to child employment. He should pay back to the community the profit he made by employing cheap workers and the increase in public expenses. If he does not pay the debt, this outcome is continuously transferred as income to the employers and consumers. On the other hand, the public has also the debt as it can not avoid the factors leading child employment.WHY EMPLOYER CONTRIBUTION IN THE SOLUTION OF CHILD EMPLOYMENT?TARGET:

  • Employers who employ children
  • Employers who do not employ children

Different strategies should be adopted for the two groups:

  • Convincing
  • Pressure group for convincing the first group

Child employment and its outcomes do not affect only the related workplace and employer. Its effects spread like waves to the neighbors, the region and whole country. Workplaces which do not employ children are also influenced because:

  • They will also employ children if conditions permit.
  • They encounter inequalities in terms of competition in the market.
  • They are treated as a child-employing workplace if they use the raw materials produces by the others.

EMPLOYERS EMPLOYING CHILDRENWorking children pose many risks, which can be summarized in 3 groups according to WHO’s definition of health:

  • Physical
  • Mental
  • Social

Labour Code gives the responsibility of solving the problems to the employer, if the risks emerge from the job itself or the manufacturing practices. The solution is to prevent.
First of all, the employer should provide a safe and health working environment for all workers, adult or child. Then, he should prevent the workers (especially children) from hazardous psycho-social effects of work.TWO FISEK PROJECTS ON WORKING CHILDREN WITH THE CONTRIBUTION OF EMPLOYERS
COMMON OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY UNITIt is a model study implemented in the small industrial regions of three industrialized provinces (Ankara, Istanbul and Denizli) totally self-financing with the contributions of the employers.
This study, which is called as Fisek Model, is the result of efforts continued for 16 years and is successfully carried out and being improved today. It has been supported by ILO/IPEC as a project between 1992-1998. The support is ongoing for the project on working girls in Denizli province.
The model consists of prevention-based service organization in small enterprises which employ children today or may employ in the future.2
HEALTH SCREENING FOR WORKING CHILDRENThis study involves the health checks of 150 working children in every 6 months in Pendik, Istanbul. It has been proposed by the Turkish Confederation of Employers’ Unions and supported by ILO/IPEC.FISEK INSTITUTE is a non-governmental organization. Its primary field of interest is social risk groups, especially working children. This initiative is based on the individual studies of its founders during 1979, International Year of the Children. The Institute consists of two bodies, “Fisek Institute on Health Services and Research” started in 1982 and founded in 1986; and “Fisek Institute Science and Action Foundation for Child Labour” which is an expert institution founded in 1997.
The objective of the institute is to enrich and put into practice the philosophy of community medicine, which has been introduced in our country by Prof. Dr. Nusret H. Fisek. The institute pays special attention to working children and women, who are significant social risk groups. It is well aware that the concept of health for all involves public development, public training, relations with public organizations and social health policies.In our model, a first aid+treatment station is established in the small industrial regions. It constitutes a focus for communication with the field, where all workers (free for children) can benefit. The capacity of these stations are increased according to the demands of the users and contributors.

If we do not implement the laws completely in the whole country, we exile the children from good conditioned workplaces to bad ones.
All adult and child workers are examined. The expenses of the adult workers are paid by the employer, providing the sustainability of the system. The probability of occupational injury of taken into account during these examinations. The service must be provided in the workplace to know about the conditions and to minimize working hour losses. As the physical conditions of small scale enterprises are not suitable for isolated health checks, we use “Mobile Units”.
Working children have to attend “Apprenticeship Education Centres” once a week according to the law. It is estimated that approximately 5% of working children attend to those centres in our country. It is possible to pay more attention to those children and to learn about their social environment by establishing “school health units” within these centres. In addition, the units allow us to reach children working in workplaces that we can not study.
Studies in the workplace are supported by risk analysis, environmental and biological measurements. All workers are informed on health and safety matters through training meetings organized in the workplace. The institute also provides support for common safety measures and personal protective equipment.