The rapid assessment report, prepared in cooperation with the Germany-based non-governmental organization Südwind, Heinrich Böll Stiftung Association and Support to Life, entitled “Valuable As Leather? Being A Leather Industry Worker and Producer In Turkey” reveals the difficult working conditions of the workers in the leather industry; it also draws attention to the presence of child labor in the industry.
Within the scope of the report dated 2021, of which Sinem Sefa Akay was the research coordinator, interviews were conducted with 35 people including leather workers, parents of child workers, representatives from labor unions, NGOs, and chambers of commerce in Adana, Bursa, Hatay, Istanbul and Izmir.
The report, which was prepared in the light of these interviews, observations and secondary sources, reveals that informal and child labor is quite common in the leather sector, which has gained importance in the national economy and global market in the last 10 years, that workers have heavy workloads, and that the COVID-19 pandemic makes the working conditions in the sector even more uncertain.
The highlights of the report are as follows:
- The interviewed workers earn very little. While the average monthly earnings of adult workers are approximately 2,300 TL, monthly earnings of child workers vary between 400 and 1,600 TL.
- Although parents underline that their children should continue their education instead of working, they state that their children have to work due to financial difficulties.
- Children who are employed face the risk of being trapped in the cycle of poverty, mostly like their families with whom they work.
- Workers only have one lunch break, including on official/national holidays and they work more than 10 hours a day. Child workers are also worked more than ten hours a day, five working days a week with 30 to 45 minute lunch breaks.
- 11 migrant workers interviewed state that their only option for their livelihood is to work informally.
- Workers work in a very unprotected environment not only in terms of social security, but also in terms of occupational health and safety measures in the workplace.
- In addition to these problems, female workers underline that the male-dominated, unhygienic working conditions in the industry are not suitable for them.
- Most of the small-scale producers interviewed do not have room to maneuver to improve conditions for their workers due to economic pressures.
- Both the integration of Syrians into the Turkey’s labor market and the COVID-19 outbreak have had an undeniable impact on the industry and the workforce, as discussed in the report.
The findings in the rapid assessment report clearly demonstrate the need for further research and commitment to decent work and labor standards in the leather manufacturing industry. In particular, prioritizing the vulnerable, working collaboratively for sustainable change, and tailored interventions for women and children are among the most urgent needs.
‘As Valuable As Leather?’ report also includes an actor map that includes all relevant actors who have roles, responsibilities or studies in the leather industry on working conditions and compliance with human rights.