In a circular published yesterday in the Official Gazette, the Prime Ministry revealed that the government would be doing more to improve the conditions that seasonal workers face when migrating from province to province. Among the many initiatives, the circular calls for the government to provide extra train and other transportation services, set up tents around work sites and carry out frequent health checks to ensure that children and adults are healthy.
Labor and Social Security Minister Ömer Dinçer, speaking about the new initiative at a press conference in Ankara yesterday, stated that many workers from the southeastern provinces migrate each year to find agricultural work in more than 19 provinces.
He also announced that as part of the new initiative the government would be putting up tents in the provinces and districts to which the 300,000 seasonal workers migrate. Employers currently only supply tents for around 60,000 people, and more than 250,000 individuals end up erecting their own living quarters where the cramped conditions meant that communicable diseases spread rapidly.
Regarding children’s health, the minister stated that health indicators monitoring their development would be collected frequently. This new initiative would form a “seasonal migrating agricultural workers monitoring board” made up of representatives from several government ministries, organizations and unions. He added that many children from migrating families found themselves out of school for three to six months of the year and that this severely inhibited their education. The new initiative would help these children to continue their education in boarding schools in the places they migrate to. Moreover, local support groups are being asked to provide the funds necessary to purchase school uniforms.
In a surprising comment, Dinçer noted that seasonal agricultural work was not a method of employment that his ministry endorsed, and stated that “seasonal agricultural work is problematic and decreases the workers’ quality of life. Our ministry is working to rid the country of this kind of employment. However, seasonal agricultural work is a reality in this country, and these new measures should improve the working conditions and quality of life of these workers.”
Reminding that Dinçer also stressed the importance of bringing these workers into the social security system and asked employers to insure them by registering them as workers with the Social Security Institution (SGK). He also asked that employees themselves consider insuring themselves with the SGK.