Pandemic wreaked havoc on Turkey’s labor market as thousands lost jobs in past year: report

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A total of 728,000 people in Turkey have become unemployed in the last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report released by the opposition SOL (Left) Party on Friday that criticizes the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat) for masking the real number of unemployed by tampering with data.

In the report titled “1 Year into the Pandemic,” which pointed out the deterioration in the economy, education and health systems in Turkey within the last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)’s handling of the infectious disease was described as “a total washout.”

TurkStat’s data on the seasonally adjusted measure of labor underutilization, which rose four straight months to reach 29.1 percent in January, revealed the real extent of unemployment in Turkey, the report said, with at least 472,000 men and 248,000 women becoming unemployed within the last year.

According to Birol Aydemir, former chief of TurkStat from 2011 to 2016 who spoke to various media outlets in 2020, the data provided by the institution is dubious and “detached from reality.”

TurkStat does not include people who are not registered seeking a job in the labor force; thus, millions who are not employed are not considered unemployed.

“According to TurkStat’s January 2021 data, although 1,221,000 people were added to the working-age population [between ages of 15 and 64 in Turkey] in this one-year period, unemployment has increased by 366,000 in the country. In other words, over 1.5 million people have withdrawn from the workforce this year,” the Sol Party said.

Seven out of every 10 citizens in Turkey were forced into debt to pay their normal expenses in the last year, with people’s credit card and consumer debt reaching TL 206 billion ($27.1 billion) and TL 386 billion ($50.8 billion) in total, respectively, according to the latest statistics, the party further noted.

Gizem Gül Kürekçi and İlknur Başer, two of the executive board members of the Sol Party, commented on the report that revealed the pandemic’s devastating effect on the country.

“Who died during the pandemic? Were they the healthcare workers who were forced to work with inadequate personal protective equipment, or those workers who couldn’t afford to pay TL 250 for a PCR [polymerase chain reaction] test and start treatment on time? Or was it those people who had to work in overcrowded factories to get by? Yes, working men and villagers died in the pandemic because of socioeconomic inequality,” Kürekçi said.

“Although it has been one-and-a-half months since the start of the vaccination rollout, the government has been able to vaccinate only 2 percent of the society,” Başer said, adding that at this rate, it would take years for people to develop immunity to the coronavirus.

The Turkish government began a vaccination campaign on Jan. 14, and more than 10.8 million people had received at least one dose of the vaccine as of March 12. More than 2.9 million of the vaccine recipients have been offered a second dose, according to health ministry data.

Within the last 24 hours, the country reported 63 more deaths, in addition to 14,046 new cases, bringing the total number of COVID-19 cases to 2,835,989.

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