Fountain of Youth

Turkey’s remarkably young population is a key asset of the economy, providing a dynamic labour pool for international investors.

Turkey’s economy has been tested repeatedly over the past decade. From recent regional instability to the dramatic economic decline of its primary trade partners in Europe following the global financial crisis, the country has experienced challenges that have been largely outside of its control.

However, the economy has managed to maintain consistent growth and retain interest from overseas investors. The country’s massive human resources potential is overlooked.

With 4 per cent overall growth in 2015, Turkey’s GDP now stands at around $800 billion, placing it well within the world’s top 20 largest economies. Its population of almost 79 million people is comparatively young, with over half of Turkish citizens under the age of 30. Of this population, almost 29 million individuals comprise the labour market, making Turkey’s the fourth largest workforce compared with EU countries, larger than Hungary, Poland, Italy, and Spain, as well as many others.

This large group of talented, skilled, and educated workers faces a competitive job market. This remains one of the challenges presented by the expansion of the country’s workforce. Broader, inclusive, and productive growth in the economy will need to be bolstered in order to keep up with the country’s considerable and growing human resources potential. Unemployment stood at 11.1 per cent as of January 2016, with well over 3 million people above the age of 15 out of work. Many of Turkey’s younger workers have migrated from agricultural regions to explore opportunities in the bustling manufacturing centres of larger cities such as Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, and Kayseri. The established agriculture and manufacturing sectors, the output of which represent over 7 per cent and 24.2 per cent of GDP respectively, continue to meet a large portion of the labour market. In line with the country’s increased economic sophistication over the past decade, however, the demand for service sector and higher- skilled professional positions has risen. Though Turkey registers high levels of adult literacy at over 95 per cent according to the World Bank, this new demand has led to the state defining ambitious targets for the education of its citizens and the elaboration of more focused initiatives to generate competitively skilled workers. Turkey has over 700,000 students graduating each year, and in 2014 spent over $45 billion on education, an increase of over 13 per cent on the previous year.

There are over 5 million students enrolled in more than 180 universities at present. The state is placing a special focus on improving theoretical and applied education to improve manufacturing, specifically for textiles, electronics, and chemical and manufacturing engineering. Furthermore, Turkey has clearly expressed its dedication to improving employment and conditions for workers across the country.

One area that has emerged as a challenge for Turkey’s employment policymakers, however, has been the role of women in the workforce. Though the state has worked toward increasing female school attendance, and though employment has increased for both genders over the past decade, challenges in sourcing accurate data on the real status of female employment stem from the fact that many women are involved in informal care or home-based working situations. In line with certain international documents such as the Lisbon Agenda, the government’s 10th Development Plan (2014-18) outlines plans to increase women’s employment and participation in the job market. Expanded programmes to encourage female entrepreneurs, such as credit provision for starting businesses and workshops and training related to the practical side of managing private businesses, have shown positive results.

All in all, the national labour force is an important asset for investors to consider while setting up business in the country. Turkey has one of the lowest minimum wage requirements in Europe, at $572 in 2013, and allows for investment-friendly social security regulations. With government policy toward education and employment rights becoming more sophisticated in tandem, the country’s workforce will continue to provide a strong reason to invest in Turkey.