The Making of a “Lost Generation”: Child Labor among Syrian Refugees in Turkey


International Migration Review, 2023 (SSCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Publication Date: 2023
  • Doi Number: 10.1177/01979183231171551
  • Journal Name: International Migration Review
  • Journal Indexes: Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), Scopus, Academic Search Premier, ASSIA, IBZ Online, International Bibliography of Social Sciences, Periodicals Index Online, American History and Life, ATLA Religion Database, CAB Abstracts, EBSCO Education Source, Education Abstracts, Gender Studies Database, Geobase, HeinOnline-Law Journal Library, Historical Abstracts, Index Islamicus, Political Science Complete, Public Affairs Index, Social services abstracts, Sociological abstracts, Worldwide Political Science Abstracts, DIALNET
  • Keywords: child labor, forced displacement, Syrian refugees, paid work, migrants, Turkey
  • Hacettepe University Affiliated: Yes


Millions of children are forcibly displaced worldwide due to wars, civil conflicts, and natural disasters. Displacement disrupts the lives of children making child labor a serious risk. However, little is known about this topic due to the difficulty of finding datasets for this population. In this study, we use a large representative dataset of Syrian refugees in Turkey, the largest refugee group in any single country, to examine the incidence of child labor and its determinants. The incidence of paid work is remarkably high among boys: 18.8 percent of 12–14 year-olds and 48.0 percent of 15–17 year-olds are in paid employment. These percentages are considerably higher than the corresponding values we estimate for pre-war Syria at 7.6 percent and 29.0 percent, respectively. We find that children from poorer households with more dependents and younger, less educated, and female household heads and children living in industrialized regions of Turkey and originating from rural Syria are more likely to work. A key finding is that being older at arrival is highly associated with child labor. Difficulties with school integration, on the one hand, and availability of job opportunities, on the other, have created a group of young out-of-school children at work. Placing these children in vocational training that allows them to work while learning a trade under the scrutiny of the Ministry of Education may help protect their well-being.