During pandemic, 3.6 million jobs lost in Turkey and gender inequality deepened

According to a study conducted by the Confederation of Revolutionary Trade Unions of Turkey (DİSK) Research Center (DİSK-AR), an average of 3,613,000 full-time jobs were lost during the pandemic, with women being the most affected.

This file photo shows people walking on Istanbul's İstiklal Avenue.

K. Murat Yıldız / Duvar English

“The Covid-19 epidemic, which began spreading around the world in early 2020 and is still spreading, has resulted in significant job and income losses for citizens, particularly workers, all over the world. The epidemic's negative socioeconomic effects are still being felt in Turkey,” DİSK-AR’s report noted and added that “Working hours fell all over the world after the Covid-19 epidemic, and the number of people at work decreased dramatically. This situation resulted in very serious job losses and, as a result, a loss of income. The negative outcome caused by the epidemic in terms of employment became much clearer after a year and a half.”

In 2020, there was a loss of 15.8 percent in employment throughout the entire epidemic, the unemployment rate was 13.2 percent, with 3.6 million people losing their jobs.

Working hours worldwide decreased by 8.8 percent in 2020, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO) Monitor’s report, compared to the fourth quarter of 2019. According to the International Labour Organization, this reduction in working hours is equivalent to the loss of 255 million full-time jobs.

According to the ILO, the number of equivalent full-time jobs lost as a result of Covid-19 varies greatly by country group. These differences vary depending on the prevalence of Covid-19 in a given country and the measures taken to combat it.

In 2020, the full-time job loss rate in low-income countries was 6.7 percent, 7.3 percent in middle-high-income countries, 8.3 percent in high-income countries, and 11.3 percent in low-middle-income countries, compared to the fourth quarter 2019. According to DİSK-AR calculations based on ILO methodology, Turkey's unemployment rate was 15.8 percent in 2020.

In the 1.5-year period between the onset of the Covid-19 epidemic (first quarter of 2020) and the period when the epidemic restrictions were lowered and the economy opened up, in June 2021 (2021 Quarter 2) in Turkey, DİSK-AR calculated the job losses caused by Covid-19 using the International Labour Organization's equivalent full-time employment loss methodology.

TÜİK’s labor data lacks pandemic effect

The Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK) has been criticized for failing to report the epidemic's effects on unemployment. According to the calculation method of TÜİK, which does not take into account the effects of the epidemic, unemployment decreased during the epidemic period and there were great increases in employment.

DİSK-AR calculated the total equivalent full-time employment loss during the epidemic period using TÜİK’s quarterly seasonally adjusted raw data before and after the epidemic, and based on the ILO's equivalent full-time employment loss method, for both 2020 (4 quarters) and 2020 1st quarter and 2021 2nd quarter (6 quarters, 1.5 years).

According to the calculation based on the seasonally adjusted data based on the fourth quarter of 2019, the quarter before the appearance of Covid-19, the number of equivalent full-time employment losses was 2,117,000 (7.8 percent) in the 1st quarter of 2020, in the 2nd quarter of 2020 8,942,000 (32.8 percent), 3,307,000 (12.1 percent) in the third quarter of 2020 and 2,862,000 (10.5 percent) in the 4th quarter of 2020.

Thus, the equivalent loss of full-time employment for 2020 was 4.307,000. The equivalent full-time employment loss rate was calculated to be 15.8 percent in 2020. The biggest loss was experienced in the second quarter of 2020, when the epidemic's impact was the greatest.

Working hours increased again after the economy partially opened in the first quarter of 2021. As a result, employment decreased by 8 percent in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the fourth quarter of 2019 and by 8.3 percent in the second quarter of 2021. Thus, in the 6-quarter period of the epidemic (beginning of 2020-20 June), the total employment loss rate was 13.2 percent and the number was 3,613,000 higher than the world and several regional averages.

Gender inequality deepened

According to the ILO, the average employment loss for women due to Covid-19 was 5 percent in 2020, while it was 3.9 percent for men. Likewise, the pandemic hit women in Turkey more than men, according to DİSK-AR’s report, as full-time employment loss during the epidemic period was 15.5 percent for women and 12.4 percent for men.

If we consider full-time job losses during the epidemic by gender, women are more likely than men to lose their jobs. In 2020, women lost 18.3 percent of their full-time jobs compared to the fourth quarter of 2019. This was equivalent to a loss of 1,408,000 jobs in terms of numbers for women. According to DİSK-AR, men lost 14.8 percent (2,899,000) of their full-time jobs during the same period, which is 4.5 points less than women.

Gender inequality has worsened as a result of the epidemic, which already prevailed in the Turkish labor market according to the report, adding that one of the factors behind the higher number of job losses among women is that the majority of women work in industries that were heavily impacted by the epidemic such as lodging and food services, wholesale retail and trade, as well as education.

Women hit hardest

“We predicted that the pandemic would have a negative impact, but it appeared to be stronger than many expected, and its negative effects are still being felt in all aspects of life. The pandemic resulted in Turkey's largest loss of jobs and income in its history. Women who were already victims of inequalities suffered the most during this time,” DİSK President Arzu Çerkezoğlu told Duvar English.

During the pandemic, female unemployment, which is a long-standing issue in Turkey, has increased. “Unemployment among women and young women has reached 50 percent, and the number of women working without social security and unofficially has risen dramatically. Women have been the hardest hit by the pandemic's social and economic consequences,” she noted.

Calling on the government to implement policies to deal with the issue of unemployment in general, promote women’s inclusiveness and address gender inequality in the labor market, Çerkezoğlu said, “unfortunately, the government is doing nothing to get rid of this grim picture. On the contrary, we see that the pandemic is used to exploit workers with low wages and precarious employment.”

Job shortage sees 10,000 people chase just six cleaning service positions in Şanlıurfa

Meanwhile, a lawmaker from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) displayed the extent of job shortage in the country, by saying that approximately 10,000 people applied for just six cleaning service positions in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa.

CHP MP Mahmut Tanal announced that six people would be hired at the Şanluurfa Youth and Sports Provincial Directorate.

“They [the government] have been saying that the economy saw a growth of 21.7 percent [in the second quarter of 2021]! Talk to the hand! What has been growing is privileged pro-government people, rent-seekers, guaranteed contractors. Citizens on the other hand are seeing the poverty's end, are crushed under unemployment,” Tanal tweeted on Sept. 1. 

Tanal also shared a document from the Turkish Employment Agency İŞKUR showing that 9,972 people have applied for the six cleaning service jobs in Şanlıurfa.

“As four people have been given priority in the job opening, two people are left [to be hired], meaning for two cleaning service positions in Şanlıurfa, 10,000 people have applied,” Tanal wrote.

The official Turkish Statistical Institution (TÜİK) announced on Sept. 1 that the Turkish economy increased by 21.7 percent year-on-year in the second quarter of 2021.

Compared with the previous quarter, the growth was 0.9 percent, TÜİK said.