10 Facts about Child Labor in Turkey’s Hazelnut Production

  • Child labor in Turkey remains prevalent. In 2012, around 900,000 children worked in Turkey. 45 percent of Child laborers worked in agriculture. Children make up to 8.5 percent of the workforce in hazelnut supply chains.
  • Two to three million Turkish agricultural workers derive some income from hazelnut production. Seasonal agricultural workers are especially dependent on hazelnut production.
  • The majority of these harvesters are from the southeast region of Turkey which borders Syria. However, hazelnuts are grown throughout the eastern and westerns regions along the Black Sea, requiring harvesters to migrate throughout the season. Syrian refugee children and other immigrant children are vulnerable to exploitation in the agricultural sector.
  • Syrian refugee and other children were also vulnerable to exploitation in the agriculture sector, where Syrian families tended to receive lower pay and live in worse conditions than Turkish workers.
  • Migratory workers tend to travel with their families. Children often work in the fields with their parents to increase their family income.  However, the harsh nature and span of seasonal migratory work inhibit the development of these children.
  • 90 percent of hazelnut harvesters work 11 hours per day; 99 percent of harvesters work 7 days a week. Children often work the same hours as their parents and are often, unable to attend school.  Even when a child is not working alongside their parents, the migratory nature of seasonal agricultural work does not allow children to consistently attend school.
  • Seasonal migrant laborers involved in the hazelnut supply chain are typically involved in other agricultural supply chains.
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What Will 2014 Hold for Those Trying to Reduce Child Labor and Forced Labor in Uzbekistan’s Cotton Harvest?

For several years, the Child Labor Coalition (CLC), which the National Consumers League co-chairs with the American Federation of Teachers, has worked closely with the Cotton Campaign to reduce child labor and forced child labor in Uzbekistan’s cotton harvest.

Uzbekistan, run by totalitarian dictator Islam Karimov is the only country in the world where the central government has recently played a major role in causing large-scale forced child labor.  For many years, Uzbekistan’s leaders emptied schools and literally forced school children—sometimes very small children—to harvest cotton, a grueling, painful, sometimes dangerous job. The country is one of the largest cotton producers in the world, and Uzbek cotton sometimes finds its way into the U.S. apparel industry, despite a pledge by more than 130 apparel companies that they will not knowingly use Uzbek cotton in their garments.

For years, Uzbek children worked beside similarly conscripted college students and older adults for four to eight weeks at a time, missing much-needed school in the process. The workers were paid so little that their forced labors should be considered a form of temporary slavery. Those who refused were expelled from school, fired from their jobs, denied public benefits, or worse. Some harvesters have reported being beaten because they did not meet their cotton quota.  The forced labor of children and adults did not enrich struggling local farmers, but benefited the country’s ruling elite.

Despite aggressive advocacy by the Cotton Campaign, Karimov had intractably refused to ease the use of child labor and forced labor. Recently, however, the situation in Uzbekistan has shown signs of changing.

Advocacy by the Cotton Campaign led to a very surprising success in last summer, when the US State Department issued its annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) country-by-country report and it included a downgrade of Uzbekistan to the lowest tier ranking, signaling that the Uzbek government was simply not doing enough to reduce forced labor and the worst forms of child labor in the country.

Although the advocacy community had worked hard and long to bring about this downgrade—and it was completely deserved—it was still something of a pleasant surprise. The US government has many strategic concerns in Uzbekistan related to supply routes for the war in Afghanistan, and it was assumed that the State Department would not be willing to issue the deserved downgrade for fear of alienating Uzbek leaders. Fortunately, the State Department honored the intent of the TIP report and in so doing, applied additional pressure to the Uzbek government.

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PRESS RELEASE: Child Labor Coalition Applauds State Department Downgrade of Uzbekistan in the Trafficking-in-Persons Report

For immediate release: June 25, 2013
Contact: Reid Maki, (202) 207-2820, reidm@nclnet.org

On June 19 the US placed Uzbekistan in the lowest rank in the Global Trafficking in Persons Report for failing to end forced labor, forced child labor, and curb human trafficking in 2012
(Washington) –The 30-member Child Labor Coalition (CLC) applauds the Department of State’s decision June 19th to downgrade Uzbekistan to Tier 3 in the Global Trafficking in Persons Report (J/TIP) ranking system. The report is an annual assessment of human trafficking around the world and the efforts of individual governments to combat it. Uzbekistan has been the focus of advocacy by the Child Labor Coalition and the Cotton Campaign because of widespread forced labor of adults and children to harvest the nation’s cotton crop.

“State-demanded forced labor of children and adults to harvest cotton each fall in Uzbekistan has long-been a grave concern,” noted CLC co-chair Sally Greenberg, the executive director of the National Consumers League. “By moving Uzbekistan to Tier III, the US government is telling the world that Uzbek leaders need to confront and remedy their use of forced adult and child labor immediately, and they must open their cotton harvest to International Labour Organization (ILO) monitoring to ensure that workers are laboring willingly.”

“We urge the Uzbek government to follow the recommendation of the tripartite ILO, and reiterated by the United States in this report, to invite a high-level ILO mission to monitor the fall harvest by August 1,” said Dr. Lorretta Johnson, Secretary-Treasurer, American Federation of Teachers.… Read the rest

International Workers, Employers, Governments Call on Uzbekistan to End Forced Labor, Child Labor

Press release: June 11, 2013


The International Labour Organization supervisory body recommends that the Uzbek government to take urgent and serious action to end forced labour of children and adults in the cotton sector.

(Geneva) – The Government of Uzbekistan should take urgent and significant steps to end systematic forced labour of children and adults in the cotton sector, said workers, employers, and governments from around the world, during the hearing of the International Labour Organization Committee on the Application of Standards. The CAS, the tripartite supervisory body of the ILO tasked with assuring that all governments abide by international labour standards, released its conclusions from the hearing today.

“We commend the international representatives of workers, employers and governments for recommending the Uzbek government to invite a high level ILO mission to monitor the 2013 cotton harvest,” said Vasila Inoyatova, Director of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan Ezgulik. “Their recommendations respond to the facts, including the deaths of Navruz Muysinov, Igor Yachkevskiy, Aziz Bakhtiyorov, and Umid during the 2012 cotton harvest.”

As highlighted by the German workers and Education International, the state system of forced child labour is serious, systematic and continuous. The Uzbek government has already mobilized children as young as age 10 as well as adults, to plough and weed cotton fields. On April 19, the deputy governor of Namangan region beat seven farmers for planting onions instead of cotton. As was the case during last fall’s cotton harvest, the forced labour of government employees this spring has again disrupted the delivery of essential public services, including health care and education.… Read the rest