Statistics for 1995 declared that the Turkish work-force is comprised of approximately 36 percent of the population, or 23.8 million people, 1.5 million of whom work abroad. The agricultural sector employs 46 percent of this workforce. Even though the number of female workers has increased considerably, the Turkish work-force is still male-dominated, with men making up 71 percent of the workforce.
The unemployment rate for 1999 was 7.3 percent, though the U.S. Department of State's Country Commercial Guide notes that it could be considerably higher, especially in urban areas, due to discouraged workers leaving the labor force. Even though Turkey has large numbers of unskilled and semi-skilled workers, there is a relative shortage of skilled labor, but the Country Commercial Guide also reports that the Turkish labor force is hardworking, productive, and dependable. In addition, labor-management relations have been generally good in recent years.
Labor laws in Turkey support a nominal 45-hour workweek, and the amount of overtime that employers may request is limited. Non-wage benefits that most workers receive include transportation and meals, and some jobs include housing and subsidized vacations. In recent years, fringe benefits have accounted for as much as two-thirds of total remuneration in the industrial sector. Even though the law mandates occupational safety and health regulations and procedures, limited resources and lack of safety awareness often result in inadequate enforcement.
With the exception of the police and the armed forces, Turkish workers have the right to unionize or join existing labor unions. The right to strike exists for most workers except those employed in the public utilities, education, and the petroleum, sanitation, and national defense industries, as well as those who are responsible for life and property protection. The law requires collective bargaining to have taken place before a strike. In order for a union to become a bargaining agent, the law requires that it must represent "50 percent plus one" of the employees at a particular work place and 10 percent of all workers in the particular branch of industry nationwide. However, since 1980 Turkey has been criticized by the International Labor Organization (ILO) for some of the above restrictions. The government has passed constitutional amendments to allow civil servants, who include central government employees such as teachers, to form unions, but it is still illegal for them to strike or bargain collectively.
Under the labor laws and constitution of Turkey, workers must be at least 15 years of age to qualify for full-time employment. Children of ages 13 and 14 can work in jobs that are not physically demanding or part-time if they are enrolled in school or in vocational training. Children are also prohibited from working at night or in physically demanding jobs such as mining. However, in practice, many under-age children continue to work in order to provide badly needed supplementary income for their families. In farming communities for example, the whole family can be seen at work during harvest times. The Turkish government has identified the child labor problem and is working with the ILO to find a solution.