Labor Market in Southeastern Turkey

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The link between extremism and unemployment has been a long-standing debate. Some sees the deterioration in the labor markets as one of the major causes behind the spread of terrorism and extremism worldwide, while the opponents argue that the idea of poverty causing terrorism is an utterly unscientific, and people who stubbornly clings to this idea, just wants to believe that they hold the key to terrorism in their own hands. Sociologists surely keep discussing for a longer time whether it is real or just a wishful thinking.

The same arguments can also be set out in the decades long conflict between the Turkish state and the PKK. And all eyes on the southeastern Turkey again as the conflict renewed after two years of so-called Peace Process, which simply failed.

Can factors such as poverty and education be portrayed as fundamental drivers of the violence? Some geography, I think, may be helpful here: (from MFA’s A Case Study of the PKK in Turkey)

Turkey’s southeastern region, due to a variety of geographic and historical factors, is far less developed than the western part of the country. The southeast is very mountainous and arid with hot and cold temperature extremes. Much of the region’s economy is based on animal husbandry and its distance from the main population centers in the west, has made it relatively less attractive for industrial development.

Through the process of development in Turkey, significant part of Anatolia, which include southeastern part of course, in other words Kurdish provinces, lacked big infrastructure investments. The clashed between the state and the terrorists made the climate of investment even more gloomy as reflected by growth figures, but more important the labor market.

The never-ending violence and the lack of jobs together created a vicious circle that lead the pain deepening for the Turkey’s Kurds. In the recent years, we saw talks started in the issue, and the Peace Process initiated which, however, seemed to fail. Yet, I find the experience of trying to solve it by talking rather than fighting important for the country, and a reason to be hopeful for the future.
Politics aside, I have been curious as to how the labor market in the region performed, and summarized the jobs figures based on the cities as can be seen below.

Labor Market in Southeastern Turkey

Here are my takes:

  • First of all, the population growth in Batman, Sirnak, and Diyarbakir outpaced the rest of the country, and total population growth in the selected nine cities were slightly below that of country. The immigration from those cities to other areas of the country seemed to fasten after 2011.
  • In terms of the workforce participation rate, the catch-up process continued, yet still, a remarkable gap still existed at 2013 yearend. In other respects, the data showed more people being hopeful for finding a job, and more women joining the labor market.
  • 2013 was a horrible year when the gap in unemployment figures diverged significantly, after the promising developments between 2008 and 2012.
  • In the total number of people employed, there was still a big difference, which appeared to be slowly made up until 2012.
  • The index below shows the developments in general, which is simply calculated via the differences in workforce participation rates, (minus) unemployment rates, and the employment rates. The higher is the index, the worse is the situation. Things got ugly there after 2011.
  • Syrian refugee crisis is very likely to be a source of rising unemployment.
  • Overall, I believe, the region has considerable need for capital investment, given its tremendous infrastructure requirements and unexploited potential, but I do not see this happening anytime soon due to ongoing clashes in Middle East which postpones the political stabilization.
  • Finally, it is a crazy idea to separate the region which such an economic outlook, most probably no one has that idea anymore.
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