MUSTAFA SÖNMEZ – Hürriyet Daily News, January 26 2015

The most alarming aspect of the unemployment reality is that nearly one-fourth of the officially unemployed as of October 2014 consisted of university graduates. DAILY NEWS photo
Economic growth, which is estimated to have dropped to 2.5 percent in 2014, has also made unemployment climb. The Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK) recently revealed unemployment data for October of last year; official unemployment, seasonally adjusted, came in at 10.6 percent, while non-agricultural unemployment rate was 12.7 percent.

jjAccording to TÜİK, the official number of unemployed people is now 3,095,000. This figure was around 2.5 million for the same month last year. Thus, while 580,000 people have been added to the ranks of the officially unemployed in the last 12 months since October 2013, unemployment has increased 1.4 points.

Numbers climbing

According to TÜİK data, non-agricultural unemployment is climbing even faster. While the non-agricultural unemployment rate was 10.5 percent in October 2012, in 2013 it climbed to 11.1 percent and then to 12.7 percent in October 2014. Thus, in two years, non-agricultural unemployment climbed 2.2 points. The number of official unemployed has exceeded 3,095,000. The unofficial, uncounted number of unemployed reached 2,457,000. Out of these, 2.4 million have not looked for a job during the past week but they represent a population that says they are ready to work if there is a job opportunity. When these non-counted unemployed are also taken into consideration, then the number of unemployed exceeds 5.5 million, while the real unemployment rate goes up from 10.6 to 17.6 percent, climbing 7 points.

With economic growth dropping in the last quarter compared to the previous quarter, unemployment has climbed; it is estimated that the climb witnessed in September and October will also continue for the subsequent two months.


The most alarming aspect of the unemployment reality was that nearly one-fourth of the officially unemployed as of October 2014 consisted of university graduates.

The number of unemployed university graduates was 725,000 in October 2014, whereas this figure was 488,000 at the beginning of February 2014. This means that in less than a year, the number of college graduates looking for a job has increased by 237,000 people; also, the figure increased 48 percent between February and October.

According to TÜİK data, when the education level of the unemployed is reviewed, 51 percent of the officially unemployed do not have a high school diploma. In second place are university graduates at 24 percent. Regular high school graduates total 11 percent, as do vocational high school graduates. The illiterate unemployed are last at 3 percent.

In the period between February and October 2014, the number of unemployed increased 218,000, almost 8 percent, but in the university graduate segment, this increase reached a striking 48 percent.

The share of this segment in total unemployment was 17 percent at the beginning of February; this went up to 24 percent in October. This is considered an indication that a significant number of 2014 graduates have not been able to find a job and that new graduates will have difficulty in finding a job in the coming years as well and that the number of unemployed university graduates will further increase.

When official unemployment was at an average of 10.2 percent in February 2014, this was 9 percent for university graduates. However, in October, average unemployment was 10.4 percent while unemployment among the higher educated went up to 12 percent.

There is another, more striking reality: It is women who make up a significant portion of unemployed university graduates. Among 775,000 unemployed university graduates, 420,000 of them, in other words 54 percent, are women.

Education, which is an important avenue of upward mobility for women, seems insufficient; there is also the matter of finding a job after graduation where women are again shoved behind and lead the group of “educated and unemployed.”

Quantity over quality

The fact that a portion of the young population looks as if they are receiving higher education actually camouflages real unemployment. As graduates increase, unemployment will increase ever more.

The boom in the number of unemployed university graduates is a result of the inflated number of higher education students during the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) regime. The number of universities was increased without taking quality into consideration. Since 2006, 51 state universities and 48 foundation (private) universities have been formed. Thus, universities looked as if they were in all provinces. At the end of 2014, the total number of universities reached 176, with 104 being state and 72 of them being foundation universities.

Separately, the quota of the full-time regular higher education was inflated. Between 2006 and 2014, this quota was increased 83 percent and reached 793,000 students. The number of students exceeded 5.5 million.

In 2014, the number of people applying to sit the nationwide university entrance and placement exam exceeded 2 million for the first time to become 2,008,000.

Despite this increase in quantity, questions about “quality” are mentioned in the Development Ministry’s 2015 Program. It says the high number of applicants for the central examination and the rising proportion of graduates (looking for a second university education) and students (trying to change schools) show the need to increase the quality of higher education.

“In this context, vocational guidance services at the high school level should be improved, the policy of increasing the quotas should be reviewed, and the relationship between the higher education and the workforce market should be strengthened,” it said.

Arguing that the “schooling rate” of the population at the age of higher education or that access to higher education has increased from 9 to 38 percent in just a couple of years is just sweeping the dirt under the carpet. However, the real problem starts with graduation, as each graduate finds himself/herself among the “army of the unemployed.”

As seen in 2014, in one academic year, the number of university graduates can increase 48 percent.

This situation indicates that the young population who had access to a higher education somewhat devoid of quality will soon inflate the “crowd of the unemployed.”

Written by Mustafa Sönmez