Turkey: A center of attraction for the international workforce


Attracting the interest of foreign investors as the fastest and the most stably growing economy in the world, Turkey has become the center of attraction for the international workforce. Immigration specialist professor Ali Zafer Sağıroğlu said it is natural that the number of foreign employees increases as the economy grows, adding that they might not find the labor force needed in many sectors if they remove foreign workers from the Turkish labor market. Foreign workers bridge the gap in many areas from sheepherding to shoemaking, babysitting, elderly care and agriculture.

Ankara Yıldırım Beyazıt University Immigration Policies Center Director, professor Sağıroğlu said as the economies of countries develop, their need for an international labor force inevitably increases. Noting that Turkey’s per capita income has soared to $11,000 from $3,000 over the past two decades, Sağıroğlu said that this has closely affected both the social structure and the markets.

“Foreign workers are working in jobs that Turkish citizens do not want to work for. According to Interior Ministry data, apart from Syrians, workers from Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, China, Turkmenistan and India have received a work permit to work in Turkey,” Sağıroğlu said.Afghan employees mostly live in areas where livestock and agricultural activities are the most intense, such as Central Anatolia and the eastern Black Sea and Aegean regions. The monthly income of a shepherd varies between TL 3,000 to TL 4,000 ($731 to $975). While Ukrainians are working at hotels and greenhouses in the Mediterranean region for an average of $500 a month, Chinese workers are working mostly in mines.

Chinese companies winning mining tenders in Turkey are bringing Chinese workers for the most convenient wages and employing them for TL 300 to TL 500 per month. In addition, Uzbek workers prefer to work in elderly, baby and disabled care and work for a monthly wage varying between TL 1,000 and TL 2,000.According to Sağıroğlu, the majority of Turkey’s close and distant neighbors have some political, social or economic challenges. On the other hand, although Turkey also has to struggle with major challenges, it has become the country of top priority for other societies in the region in terms of both safety and the economy.

Moreover, Turkey’s changing sociological dynamics have made the requirement of international human power inevitable.Pointing out that if it not were for Afghans, agricultural and livestock products would be more expensive, Sağıroğlu stressed that Georgian workers make a great contribution to the tea harvest in the Black Sea region. Also, while Syrians have a key position in many manufacturing sectors, workers coming from a vast area from Eastern Europe to Central Asian Turkic Republics are filling a major gap in caregiving and nursing sectors.Sağıroğlu further underlined that international labor mobility toward Turkey is an issue of “management” rather than an issue of a “crisis” in terms of both the needs of newcomers and the benefits of the local community. He concluded, “One of the highest spots for this is the public perception that needs to be created on the basis of knowledge.”

The Labor and Social Security Ministry issued work permits to 87,000 foreigners last year, with Syrian citizens leading the way, receiving 24 percent of the issued permits.

Thousands of people from around the world applied to the Labor and Social Security Ministry in 2017 to receive a work permit in Turkey. The ministry, which carefully examined the applications, approved around 87,190 of the nearly 100,000 applications made last year.Around 20,970 Syrians began working in Turkey last year with the permission of the ministry, accounting for about 24 percent of the allowed work permits.

Syrians were followed by Georgia with 7,317 citizens receiving work permit, Kyrgyzstan with 6,360, Ukraine with 5,761, China with 4,288, Turkmenistan with 3,847, India with 3,055, Uzbekistan with 2,465, Azerbaijan with 2,449 and Russia with 2,390.

While there were 983 Americans, 960 Germans, 956 British, 649 Italian and 543 French among those granted work permits last year, Turkey provided jobs for people from around the world, including Finland, Mexico, Japan, Brazil, Estonia and Peru.

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