Rising youth unemployment rings alarm bell in Turkey

“I have been looking for a job for nearly a year. I really need one for my family. But as each day passes, I am losing hope,” said Mustafa Cerci, a 21-year- old Turk.

After working for nearly two years as a plumber without official registration of social security by his former boss, the mechanics graduate quit and applied for several jobs via friends, acquaintances and Turkey’s labor exchange office, but have all failed.

He is in desperate need of a job, as his whole family, which relies on the income of two members only, is cramming in a rented flat in suburban Ankara.

“We are a family of six and only one of my siblings has a job as a waiter. With the pension my father receives, it is far from sufficient under the economic crisis,” he pointed out.

Turkey’s unemployment rate surged to 14.7 percent between last December and February, its highest level in nearly a decade, according to official data published recently, as a result of the currency crisis last year.

The gloomy data also included soaring youth unemployment rate of 26.7 percent, a record level in nearly two decades.

Yalcin Karatepe, a Turkish economist, estimated the overall number of jobless Turks to stand around 7 million, stressing that the actual situation is more alarming than the authorities have claimed.

“We are only at the beginning of an economic crisis and the unemployment figures are alarming,” said Ibrahim Kahveci, a commentator of Karar daily, warning that these figures are likely to go up in the coming months.

He added that up to 1 million people have been looking for a job for over a year because of the contraction of new employment areas.

The Turkish economy shrank by 3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018, its worst performance in nearly a decade, indicating that last year’s lira slide of near 30 percent, which also continued in 2019, had tipped it into recession with soaring inflation.

Both Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak said that Turkey has overcome the worst economic trouble. Last week, Albayrak has announced a series of measures to prop up the ailing economy.

In addition, the Turkish Ministry of Labor is making an effort to satisfy the needs of the unemployed, offering several schemes and training courses for the less educated, but it is simply not enough as businesses are going down in the whirlwind of the embattled economy.

Many companies have filed for bankruptcy since the currency meltdown in August 2018. Last March alone, the number of closed small enterprises went up by a year-on-year 27.46 percent, according to the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges (TOBB).

And it seems that Turkey’s trouble is far from being over as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecast that the country’s economy would contract by 2.5 percent this year, further worsening the graduate unemployment rate.

Finding a job has become so difficult that people are turning to the vibrant social media for help, detailing their qualifications and work experience.

“Dear older sister Emine, I am from Sanliurfa. I am searching for a job and I am depressed, please help me,” wrote Mehmet Kolsuz to Emine Erdogan, Turkey’s First Lady, from the southeastern city of Sanliurfa, a region where unemployment rate is particularly high.

Some factories have in recent months stopped or cut down their production because of increasing costs. Tofas, one of the major automotive companies in Turkey, has reportedly made a layoff of 2,000 workers to reduce daily shifts because of sales decrease.

Hopefully, in this gloomy atmosphere, there is some good news to keep the spirits up for Turkey’s underdeveloped southern provinces, where investments are rare amid rising tensions about competition for jobs with hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees there.