Unemployment figures announced by the Turkish Statistics Institute (TurkStat) on Monday for the month of February indicate that Turkey's unemployment has fallen to 11.5 from 11.9 percent in January.
This February figure also represented a 2.9 percentage point decrease in the jobless rate from the same month last year. The pool of unemployed people decreased by 600,000 this February compared to February 2010.
Last month, there were slightly more than 2.9 million persons unemployed in Turkey, but the number of employed people had increased to 22.8 million people. The data also indicated that around 31 percent of those seeking jobs during this period did so through personal acquaintances.
According to the TurkStat data, 71.8 percent of those employed were male, 59 percent had an education below high-school level, 2.8 percent had another job and 90.4 percent of regular employees worked in permanent jobs. The TurkStat data, referring to information gathered by the Ministry of Finance, stated that total public sector employment was just above 3 million persons in the first quarter of 2011.
In a phone interview on Monday, Professor Üstün Dikeç of the Ankara-based Çankaya University noted that exports and the production of goods in Turkey depend heavily on foreign demand, and therefore the Turkish labor market, which suffered from aftereffects of the global crisis due to a decline in production, is now seeing positive movements thanks to the eurozone's recovery. According to Dikeç, there is a small impact on production by an increase in domestic demand, which in turn has played a positive role on employment “The negative situation of the textile sector prior to the global crisis, which was reversed mainly due to an increase in demand from European countries recovering from the crisis, is a major example of the Turkish production sector's dependency on foreigners. The automobile sector's recovery in Turkey is another example,” he said.
Turkey's unemployment rate hit a worrisome 15 percent in 2009 when the global financial crisis hit the world economy the hardest. Last year, the government's fight against inflation paid off and the unemployment rate was able to be brought down as low as 10.5 percent. It later increased slightly due to seasonal effects. It is, however, yet to be seen if this new drop through February is a precursor of the trend in coming months.
Dikeç believes another positive factor on employment nowadays in Turkey is a temporary consequence of upcoming June 12 general elections. He explained that election-related side sectors such as advertising and transportation are hiring temporary workers. He provided a personal example, saying: “My son owns an advertising company and in order to meet a recent hike in election-related demand he has had to hire three more people. This is a typical example of temporary employment these days.”
More attempts to combat unemployment and poverty
Poverty reduction in Turkey has been proportional to the country's economic growth. The number of households with a monthly income below the poverty line was 22.4 percent of the entire Turkish population in 2002. The same rate decreased to 14 percent in 2009. Yet in Turkey poverty still remains an important problem needing to be addressed. The current Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government says one of its priorities will be an intense program to boost employment, which will be put in place to combat poverty, if it wins a third term in office at the June elections.
According to plans the government intends to implement, firms that win public tenders will be required to give priority to hiring long term unemployed people that have been unemployed for greater than a year. Furthermore, people who are sole income providers in their household and who are low-income green card holders will be encouraged to be given priority when companies make hiring decisions.