Selim Altun has been looking for a job for over a year as the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic has made things worse for Turkey’s economy and the declining labor market, reducing the possibility for him to find long-term employment.

The 21-year-old young man failed to graduate from high school because of his family’s financial distress.

“Frankly, I will do anything. I can wash dishes in a restaurant or something like that, or work for a cleaners company. The only thing I need is a steady job so that I can have social security” in order to have access to free medical coverage, he told Xinhua in Turkey’s capital Ankara.

Altun said that he is discouraged by the lack of employment and that the coronavirus outbreak has deteriorated further the prospect of a decent job.

“People who have university degrees can’t (even) find jobs nowadays,” he added.

The plight of the young man is widespread in Turkey where the rate of youth unemployment (between the ages of 15 and 24) is 26.1 percent, according to official data published on Sept. 10.

Turkey’s overall unemployment rate rose to 13.4 percent and it edged up in May-July during which a coronavirus lockdown was lifted, according to figures announced by the Turkish Statistical Institute, despite a government ban on layoffs.

Amid the pandemic, the rate of unregistered employment of those working without any social security stood at 31.3 percent.

There’s also the other side of the coin where companies refuse to hire new workforce, fearing a new possible lockdown in major cities, such as Ankara and Istanbul, where there is a resurgence of new confirmed cases.

“If we have to close our business again, it will be the end of us,” an owner of a small clothing shop in downtown Ankara told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

Unemployment is expected to rise further in the course of the year when Ankara is expected to eventually lift the ban on layoffs.

Turkey was just emerging from a 2018 currency crisis when COVID-19 hit the country early this year, deepening the nation’s vulnerabilities.

With the global health crisis, the economy has contracted nearly 10 percent in the second quarter of the year. Despite a relief in some economic indicators such as an increasing industry output, economists generally agree that Turkey’s gross domestic product (GDP) will shrink more than 1 percent this year.

Turkey is also witnessing important capital flight since the start of the year, more than any other country, Yalcin Karatepe, a scholar and economist from the Ankara University said.

“Capital outflows are significant and have an impact on decreasing central bank’s reserves, used to prop up the lira,” the national currency, which has depreciated 20 percent since the start of the year, he said in his video blog.

The economy in Turkey is not only under the strain of the COVID-19 pandemic but also under the pressure of foreign policy and structural problems, Karatepe remarked.

In this delicate economic climate, young Turks seem to feel the burden of financial woes the most and want to try their luck abroad as they are indebted and worried about the future, a recent study by Istanbul’s Yeditepe University and MAK Consultancy showed.

Almost half of the youths consider unemployment as the most important problem that needs to be solved while 77 percent of the respondents believe that preferential treatment is more effective than talent when it comes to getting hired for a job.

And more than 75 percent of young people are ready to live in a different country if given a temporary opportunity.

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