Turkey's most pressing challenge is long-term unemployment

The most pressing problem Turkey faces today is unemployment. The main cure for it is an structural improvement of the Turkish economy.

In my opinion, the most pressing problem Turkey faces today is unemployment. If it spreads to broader segments of society, long-term unemployment will not only negatively affect the physical and mental well being of people but also amplify income inequality. At Türkiye Raporu, we focused on unemployment in our February survey.

TUİK announced the unemployment data for November 2019 last week. While the unemployment rate fell by 0.1% to 13.3%, over 1.1 million people have been searching for a job for more than a year. Additionally, there seems to be a 0.5% decrease in the workforce participation rate. In other words, 347,000 people ceased to look for jobs between October and November.

The TUİK data suggests that between the months of October and November, the number of people who stopped looking for jobs due to hopelessness to find one increased by 47,000 to 715,000. In fact, 98% of these people were younger than 65 years old. Though the unemployment rate appears to have decreased, long term unemployment in Turkey seems to be deteriorating the efficiency of the youth workforce.

In order to resolve this issue, one must grasp the underlining reasons of long-term unemployment. In that regard, we asked our survey respondents whether a family member, including themselves, has been looking for a job for over a year. To this question, 46.2% of respondents answered “yes”. As a result, it is possible to say that while unemployment is calculated at a much lower rate, the public's perceived unemployment is much higher.

We then asked those respondents who answered “yes” to our previous question what was the reason for their unemployment. Four out of ten attendants suggested that the lack of job opportunities due to the current economic climate was to be blamed for their unemployment. This means that 16.6% of attendants have a family member who has been looking for a job for over a year due to the current economic conjuncture.

Additionally, one out of five people that has a family member who has been looking for a job for over a year believe that they are unemployed because there are no jobs matching their diploma. The unemployment rate of 12.8% among higher education graduates must be a result of this issue. 

Respondents who believed that their family member cannot find a job due to low salary proposals and a lack of jobs matching their experience was over 20%. On the other hand, those who believed that the reason for unemployment is “not liking the available jobs” was only around 3.%. Thus, the Minister of Forestry and Water Affairs's statement “There is no unemployment, people just don’t like the jobs out there” seems to apply to tiny percentage of the unemployed fringe.

All things considered, it seems that the main cure for long-term unemployment is an improvement of the Turkish economy. Moreover, the education system ought to provide training programs dedicated to areas where labor is needed. The necessary conditions should be provided for new graduates to get further professional experience.