Where is Turkey’s Employment Strategy?

Where is Turkey’s Employment Strategy?

Unemployment is perhaps the biggest current problem of Turkey… If we can increase employment and have better quality workers, employers and employees, we can continue to realize our real development efficiently.

The importance and needs of employment are not unknown. For this reason, we talked with Onur Kayalar, one of the WYG’s Turkey Project Coordinators, and Gaye Erkan, Employment Projects Grant Specialist, who have been involved in employment projects for a long time, preparing project proposals in this field, and working with the Turkish Employment Agency (İŞKUR) in Employment Projects that are currently being implemented. We discussed some projects and their effects in the field of employment within the framework of accession to the European Union (EU) and, considering the developments in İŞKUR and the work of the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, we made a compilation on the basis of projects. In fact, these projects will form the infrastructure of very serious developments, even though a national employment strategy has not yet been agreed upon and shared with the public in Turkey. We agreed that when the time comes, the outputs of these projects could significantly support the national employment strategy.

Compared to many countries that have faced the crisis in today’s global economy, although Turkey has suffered little damage and maintained its strong economic stance, the problem of unemployment and employment continues to be one of the chronic problems. In the field of employment, many studies at different levels are handled by both public and non-governmental organizations. The European Union accession process also acts as a catalyst for the implementation of this and similar studies at local and central levels, and encourages public policies and the private sector to focus on the employment problem.

The accession process, which gained momentum with the start of Turkey’s accession negotiations with the EU in October 2005, continues with new projects of public institutions in almost every field. “Social Policy and Employment”, which is the 19th chapter among the chapters opened for negotiations every six months, necessitated the priority handling and implementation of employment policies. Accordingly, developments in social policy and employment in Turkey are evaluated in detail in the progress reports published at the end of each year.

The Social Policy and Employment chapter includes all the project studies carried out in this context. Various projects in the field of employment, of which İŞKUR is the beneficiary, have been carried out since 2004, and they are implemented in line with Turkey’s accession partnership priorities. Launched in 2004, the “Active Labour Force Programs” Project is one of the most important milestones of employment projects. Within the framework of this project, current employment policies of Turkey and the EU were examined, modernization of İŞKUR services was ensured and over 240 micro-employment projects were financed with a 50 M Euro grant program. In the following period, the “Active Labor Force Programs II” Project, also carried out by İŞKUR, was implemented, this time focusing on increasing the employability of women and youth in line with similar objectives. Within the scope of the technical support project in question, 20 M Euros were distributed to more than 100 micro-projects to increase employment, and employment policy, infrastructure and capacity building studies were continued.

As a more comprehensive continuation of these studies, projects aimed at improving public employment services and increasing employment in Turkey have been put into practice in the recent period. The first of these projects is the “Development of Public Employment Services” Project, which aims at capacity building by providing technical support to the central and local organizations of İŞKUR and all relevant stakeholders. Within the scope of this project, there are activities for capacity building, development of information technology tools in public employment services, management of research and analysis, communication and promotion activities, and creation of elements for better policy making.  Within the framework of the project, which started in January 2011 and will be completed by the end of the first half of 2013, the modernization of İŞKUR services continues, especially through training, internship and exchange programs, and study visits, and services provided by İŞKUR via the internet are being developed, and “internship matching systems” are established for young people and new graduates. Again, with this project, “job counselling” services provided by İŞKUR Provincial Directorates are developed and studies are carried out to announce and promote these services among employee, unemployed and employer groups. As an example of activities aimed at increasing access to İŞKUR services within the scope of the project, an “İŞKUR Bus” will set off to visit 23 provinces in total in the Black Sea, East and Central Anatolia regions between September and November 2011, and will make one-to-one interviews with the public and inform them about the services provided by İŞKUR. .

A second project carried out by İŞKUR in the field of employment aims to increase women’s employment. Within the scope of the “Improving Women’s Employment in Turkey” Project, which started in March 2011 and has a duration of 21 months, field studies and labor market analyzes are carried out in order to increase women’s employment and participation in the workforce. Following these analyses, a “women-oriented” active labor force model will be developed for women’s employment, and studies will be carried out to provide vocational guidance and consultancy services that consider gender equality. In addition, a wide-ranging awareness raising campaign for the same goals will be carried out throughout the project.

Finally, the third İŞKUR project, which aims to increase youth employment in Turkey, will be implemented in the near future. During the 24-month implementation period of this project,   the entrepreneurship capacities of young people will be strengthened in order to increase youth employment and their participation in the workforce, the “Support for Youth Entrepreneurship” Model will be developed, and in order to increase the access of young people to internship and on-site training opportunities, communication network will be established between young people and workplaces that can provide internship opportunities, and action plans on the subject will be prepared. The said services within the scope of the project are aimed at increasing the entrepreneurial capacity of young people and women aged 15-29 who are university, high school, equivalent or secondary school graduates, who still continue their education, who left school or have a lower level of education, as well as increasing their internship and on-site learning opportunities, thus  increasing labor force participation and employment by strengthening employment opportunities.

The projects focused on the development of women and youth employment also have grant programs in practice. Within the scope of these grant programs, more than 250 grant projects have been implemented with a total of 40 M Euros aimed at strengthening women’s employment and developing youth employment.

It is undisputed that the projects mentioned above and similar studies on employment should continue with the same momentum in Turkey. In this respect, the priorities regarding employment brought by the EU accession process are seen by Turkey as a conduit to these efforts and are in line with national employment policies. On the other hand, finalizing and putting into practice the National Employment Strategy, which has been worked on recently, is considered essential for Turkey to act with an employment policy built on solid foundations and strong political will behind it.

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