Migrant workers and its impact on the labour market: a comparative study on the Syrian refugee labour and its recent positioning within the textile industry in Istanbul

Pedriye Mutlu
Ertan Erol
  Istanbul University
Kıvanç Yiğit Mısırlı
  Istanbul University
İpek Gümüşcan
  Istanbul University
Ezgi Akyol
  Istanbul University
Ezgi Pınar
  Istanbul University
Cemal Salman
  Istanbul University
Mustafa Kahveci
  Istanbul University


This paper aims to analyse the recent changes within the labour market in Turkey regarding to the Syrian refugee influx which had been intensified during the last two years. With the deterioration of the living conditions in Syria due to the long lasting conflict many Syrian families forced to leave the country for security and also for the very economic reasons. Even though in Turkey the legal framework considerably limits refugees to be included in economic activities, a significant portion of the Syrian migrant population was able to enter to the existing labour market while the majority of this participation contained to the unqualified and underpaid sectors such as service, agriculture and construction. Nevertheless, Syrian migrant labour had been absorbed also by the manufacturing sector, principally by the textile industry. While there are various studies on the general features of the Syrian migration to Turkey and its general effects on Turkey’s economy, its actual impact on the labour market and working conditions yet to be analysed.
Therefore by focusing on the textile industry, particularly on the small scale and informal textile workshops in Istanbul, this work investigates the workplace practices, tensions, wage disparities and survival strategies between Syrian refugee workers and textile workers of Turkish citizenship. It also compares the previous and current working experience of Syrian refugee workers and analyses Turkish and Syrian workers’ perceptions on the impact of the increasing presence of the migrant labour within the textile sector. The data was gathered in the 11 major districts of Istanbul where the formal and informal textile production mostly concentrated, through questionnaires conducted over six months’ period with six hundred textile workers of Syrian, Turkish and Kurdish origins. Based on this extensive data this work aims to shed light on the changing labour conditions in the Istanbul textile industry regarding to the inclusion of the Syrian refugee labour.

forced immigration - labour process - refugee labour - syrian war