2009 sees record 14 percent unemployment as labor force grows.
According to data released yesterday by the Turkish Statistics Institute (TurkStat), unemployment rose by 3 percentage points between 2008 and 2009, reaching 14 percent by the end of the difficult 2009. A total of 3,417 million people were unemployed in 2009, but the labor force participation rate actually rose from 46.9 percent to 47.9 percent, indicating that people have increased their active hunt for jobs, even though the number of jobs available was limited.
This, coupled with the fact that the population not in the labor force actually decreased from 26.97 million to 26.94 million signaled that 2009 was a year of serious job searching as households saw their incomes fall.
The last three months of the year saw signs of a slight recovery in other macroeconomic indicators, as capacity utilization, exports and industrial production indices saw improvements. Unemployment, however, did not exhibit this trend, hitting 13 percent in October and increasingly slightly to 13.1 percent in November and an estimated 13.4 percent in December. Whether these small gradual increases will continue is uncertain, but it is clear that unemployment will be a long-term problem.
Weak vocational education may be to blame
Speaking to Today"s Zaman, Nürettin Özgenç, president of the Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises Association (KOB?DER), stated that a significant portion of this high unemployment rate is due to a lack of quality vocational education, stressing that there is a serious shortage of workers with professional skills. ?There"s all this unemployment, yet industries are looking for qualified individuals during this time and are unable to find anyone that fits their requirements.? He also added that the coefficient system, which docks points from an applicant"s university entrance exam score if he or she attended a vocational school, needs to be lifted in order to solve this shortage of skills. ?In 2010, the "I"ll do whatever job you give me" mentality cannot survive; these people need to develop skills and a profession.?
Recep Ek?i, president of the Business Life Cooperation Association (??HAD), stated that the focus should be on supporting small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to reduce the weight of Turkey"s unemployment. Speaking to Today"s Zaman, he stated that SMEs may seem like they contribute little in terms of employment, but ?little by little the numbers add up.? Turkey"s SMEs employ more than 70 percent of the workforce. ?The government supports SMEs through monetary means through channels such as the Small and Medium Industry Development Organization [KOSGEB], which is fine, but the SMEs need more technical assistance, they need know-how,? stated Ek?i. ?We need to pave the way for them and lift barriers in front of their growth. Like we have customs officers and tax officers, we need to have government consultants who assist SMEs one-on-one in opening up to bigger markets.? He also stressed the importance of the textile and construction sectors for creating employment, stating that government policy should focus on propping up these sectors in order to help significantly reduce unemployment levels.
Unemployment figures show that the non-agricultural unemployment rate, which excludes the volatile agricultural sector from the calculations, rose to 17.4 percent at the end of last year, up significantly from 13.6 percent in 2008. The economic powerhouse of ?stanbul had the second-highest unemployment rate at 16.8 percent, second only to the least developed region of Turkey, southeast Anatolia with 17.4 percent. ?stanbul also saw the greatest increase in unemployment, rising by 5.6 percent in the span of a year. The Black Sea region seemed to be the least affected in terms of unemployment, rising by only 0.2 percent between 2008 and 2009. Youth unemployment, an especially crucial issue for Turkey considering that half of the population is below the age of 28, also increased to 25.3 percent in 2009, up from 20.5 percent in 2009.
Unemployment will be an especially sticky problem for much of the world, with increasing numbers of jobless individuals roaming for work and coming up short on a global scale. US unemployment exploded from 4.8 percent in April 2009 to over 10 percent in January. The European Union fared relatively better, with unemployment rising from 7 percent in 2008 to 8.9 percent at the end of 2009. Troubled Spain, however, increased its 2007 8.3 percent unemployment rate to a staggering 18 percent in 2009. Greece, currently threatening the stability of the euro zone with its overwhelming budget deficit, showed a 9.7 percent unemployment rate for the third quarter of 2009 over 7.5 percent a year earlier.