No job, no hope? Throwing a glance at latest youth unemployment figures in Turkey

All that Barış Yazgı wanted was a chance to study music. He died trying to fulfill this wish on April 24th, drowning in the Aegean Sea. Yazgı - a violinist - was found dead together with at least 15 other people who were headed for the Greek island of Lesbos, when their boat capsized. According to his family, after his visa application had been denied by Belgium, the 22-year old Yazgı decided to board one of the many dinghies refugees use to get to Greece. He was determined to go to Belgium to pursue his dream of studying music.

Yazgı is only one of the many talented people who find themselves trapped in a country that has not much to offer to the young. According to the latest report of the Turkish Statistical Institute that covers labor force numbers for January 2017, compared to the same period of last year, the number of unemployed people (ages 15 to 64) grew by 695.000 and amounted to almost four million, which equals an unemployment rate of 13 percent. The unemployment rate among young people however (ages 15 to 24) is almost twice as high: with an increase by 5.3 percent, the unemployment rate for young people reached 24.5 percent, which means that every fourth person in the labor force of that age category is unemployed; this is the highest rate since February 2009. Youth unemployment rate in Turkey averaged 19.04 percent from 1988 until 2016, reaching an all time high of 28.6 percent in February of 2009.

In the EU the average rate for youth unemployment is 17.2 percent. The main reason behind this seemingly high rate can be attributed to the extremely high rates in countries that have been struggling with deep economic crisis such as Spain (40.5 percent and Greece (48 percent), where almost half of the young population is unemployed. Nevertheless, the youth unemployment rate in the EU steadily declined from 24 percent in 2013 to the current 17.2 percent. Compared to European figures, the Turkish case involves more ups and downs and represents a 4.5 percent increase for the same period (2013 to 2017).

According to figures of İŞKUR, the public employment office, at the beginning of this year 509.000 young people with at least one university degree were registered as having no official job. Unemployed graduates of business management represented the highest number with 82.375, followed by 41.000 engineers, by 21.000 accountants, 20.000 economists, 24.000 teachers, 20.000 computer operators, 9.500 advertisers, 7.000 historians and 6.000 sociologists.

Yazgı is probably the most striking example of young people being forced to take drastic measures, because they do not seem to have a chance to find employment. Many of the young people listed above are forced to take jobs they are not qualified for, as they cannot find employment in their sector. Remzi Ersu, a 22 year old medical student from Van, died on a construction site after being crushed under a concrete block in Istanbul earlier this year. Mikail Cengiz, only one among tens of thousands of teachers, who are unemployed also died on a construction site in Gaziantep in last June by falling from the 6th floor. These examples may serve to illustrate the despair and tragedy linked to the real lives of people behind the unemployment statistics.

Analysts do differ in their assessment of the current state of (youth) unemployment in Turkey. Some consider the negative scenario as being temporary while attributing it to the current political instability of the post-coup period. Sectors which normally employ high numbers of young people such as tourism and the service sector are obviously affected by the crisis. Other experts however argue that the unemployment rates are connected with deeper lying and multi-layered economic and political problems, which will continue for the foreseeable future. One thing is certain though, young people in Turkey are surrounded by an obscurity of various difficulties, the impossibility of securing a (material) existence being the most remarkable one. As an opinion research published by MetroPOLL in March this year, 31 percent of Turkish people aged 18 to 34, said that they wanted to leave the country. The rate is 35.9 percent for university graduates. Those numbers show that a lot of young Turkish people neither have hope nor a vision for a future in their country.