The Turkish state is hiding the severity of its youth unemployment problem
However, there is widespread belief that the official statistics do not begin to account for the scale of unemployment in Turkey. Turkey’s pro-government press are claiming that year on year, unemployment fell to 12.9 percent in November 2020, from 13.3 percent the same month in 2019. This seems unbelievable, with statistics showing that the number of people losing hope for even getting a job increasing drastically.
“Total number of people who say "I do not look for a job because I have no hope of finding a job but I will work if there is a job"
2018 November: 522 thousand
2019 November: 715 thousand
November 2020: 1 million 674 thousand (the fourth record in the measurement date in a row)”
“Number of university graduates who say "I do not look for a job because I have no hope of finding a job, but I will work if there is a job"
2018 November: 87 thousand
November 2019: 128,000 (record in measurement history)
November 2020: 309k (new record in measurement history)”
Some commentators believe that the real youth unemployment level is much higher than by TÜİK. The Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey (DİSK) has published its own statistics, which estimate that the total unemployment rate is 28.8 percent, rather than 12.9 percent, which only accounts for ‘active job seekers’.
“1- Narrowly defined youth unemployment announced by TÜİK is 25.4 percent. With the addition of those who lose hope of finding a job, only seasonal workers and those who will work immediately if they do not seek a job, the broadly defined youth unemployment is 40.5 percent. Moreover, those who receive unpaid leave and short work allowance are shown in employment.”
Al-Monitor also identified a “growing trend of alienation from education” in their report, with 66 percent of students unsatisfied with the education they have received in Turkey, according to a Habitat Association survey. This corresponds with my own research this week, looking at the reasons why people have decided to emigrate from Turkey in recent years, with 36 percent of people who responded to my questionnaire giving educational reasons for leaving Turkey.
I think we can conclude from this that the Turkish government’s efforts to interfere in Turkey’s education system to produce a ‘pious generation’ of Turkish youth, especially through their promotion of religious Imam Hatip schools. Since 2012, the Turkish government has plowed money into these schools, and the number of students attending them, compared to schools with a more secular curriculum, has increased hugely.
Although the proportion of adults in Turkey who attained a university level education doubled from 2008-2018 to 33 percent, the employment opportunities for graduates also fell in that time by 6 percent, according to the OECD. Turkey is not creating or attracting the kind of employers who want to hire university graduates, and so it is no surprise that many of them want to leave the country.
There is also a political aspect to employment in Turkey. The influence of the ruling Justice and Development Party on many business sectors is huge. Being friendly with government networks is a necessity for many businesses, and the widespread knowledge of this patronage system makes the Turkish public aware that employment in Turkey is not meritocratic, but often based on who you know.
As dissatisfaction with the Turkish government’s policies grows, there is a growing class of people who will feel that they are at a disadvantage in the jobs market because they are not government supporters. Attacks on educational institutions like Boğaziçi University in Istanbul will further convince educated students that they have no prospects in Turkey, and should leave the country for work and further study.
Just last month, President Erdogan called student protesters ‘terrorists’, while on 10 Feb. he was saying that “"I now see every person of our almost 84 million population as a member of our party". The Turkish state behaves like an abusive parent towards its children, alternately terrorising them, then saying it loves them. Perhaps, rather than constantly interfering in their lives as part of a kulturkampf for the soul of Turkey, it should simply leave them alone.