Aynur Tekin / DUVAR

Despite the loosening of the qualifications that are required to benefit from a short-term unemployment fund being paid out by Turkey’s Employment Agency (İŞKUR) to those who have lost work due to the coronavirus epidemic, thousands are still prevented from receiving these payments. 

The short-term fund seeks to provide three months of financial support for people who work in businesses that have been forced to close down due to the outbreak of coronavirus. Initially, the requirement was that employees had to have worked 600 days within the past three years, though the government lowered that minimum to 450. Another qualification is that the employee is supposed to have held an official employment contract for the past 60 days.

“While easing the conditions is a positive step, this fund is an insufficient initiative that does not apply to all laborers,” said employment expert Sinan Ok.  

One part of the problem is that employers, not employees, are the only ones who can apply for the fund on the behalf of themselves and their workers, and that some employers are putting their employees at risk in order to keep their companies open. 

“At the moment we do not know how many employers have applied for how many of their workers, because İŞKUR does not provide these figures. Based on information that I was able to obtain from within the institution, the number of employers not applying is substantial. The workers who do not have the right to apply for this fund must abide by their employers’ decision and continue working,” Ok said.  

E.D., who worked at a school cafeteria in the Black Sea province of Zonguldak prior to the outbreak, said that they were unable to benefit from the fund despite meeting the qualifications and were at home not working due to the school’s closure. 

Last year’s official unemployment figures indicated that 25 percent of Turkey’s youth population (those between the ages of 15 and 24) were unemployed. This figure is even higher among young women. Among them is E.N., who graduated from university in 2018 with a degree in German language interpretation and translation. When she was unable to find a job in her field, she started working for an airline, and was put on unpaid leave after the coronavirus outbreak hit Turkey. 

“For recent graduates like me, meeting those requirements is impossible. For the first five months I worked as someone attached to İŞKUR, which meant during that period my social security benefits were not being paid, and I was only able to benefit from general health insurance. In the last six months that I was working, there was no way I could have filled those days. I have at least 50 friends, and not just those from my company, that are in the same situation,” E.N. said. 

S.K., a physical therapist working at a special education center, fell just 20 days short of meeting the 450 day requirement. They said that many others were in similar situations and cannot even meet their basic needs.