The coronavirus crisis appears bound to leave Turkey with some 10 million people out of work, doubling the country’s pre-pandemic unemployment count. Even more alarmingly, many of those losing jobs remain without any welfare coverage from the state.
The pandemic hit Turkey when its economic immunity was already weak in the wake of a 2018 currency crisis. The turmoil added almost 3 percentage points to the country’s unemployment rate last year, bringing it to nearly 14% as the army of jobless grew by about a million people to reach 4.5 million. The pandemic has dashed hopes for economic revival in 2020, with Ankara’s official tally reaching more than 42,000 infections and 908 deaths as of April 9, less than a month since the government confirmed the first case on March 11. Many blame the fast spread of the outbreak on the government’s response, arguing that measures to enforce social distancing and prevent movement have come late or fallen short.
Nevertheless, the measures have wreaked havoc on the labor market. The spike in unemployment stems from three main factors. The first is the closure of businesses where people come close to each other and thus pose a high risk of spreading the contagion. Another factor is the stay-at-home orders imposed on those aged over 65 and many of those under 20. The third factor is the nosediving demand for goods and services that has plunged tens of thousands of enterprises into crisis, leading them to lay off or furlough employees.