Employers demand well-planned work permit strategy for Syrians

The government has previously said that it also wants to clamp down on “off the books” employment in the country.

In a bid to reveal the business world’s stance towards the Syrian problem in Turkey, the Turkish Confederation of Employers’ Unions (TİSK) held a press conference in İstanbul on Monday, where it also unveiled an extensive report on the issue prepared in cooperation with the Ankara-based Hacettepe University Migration and Politics Research Center (HUGO). Even though it bears the risk of boosting the already-high unemployment rate, TİSK backs the government in its possible path to forge a well-planned program to issue work permits to Syrians, according to speakers at the conference. On top of unregistered employment that accounts for 35 percent of the Turkish labor force, some 400,000 Syrians work illegally in Turkey, providing businesses with cheap labor, HUGO Director Murat Erdogan said. According to the recent data the report presents, Turkey hosts as many as 2.2 million Syrians who have fled a bloody civil war in their country over the past four years. Out of all the Syrians in Turkey, 88 percent have become urban refugees, scattered across the country. “We have to acknowledge the reality that those people will remain permanent residents of Turkey, seeking citizenship in the near future,” TİSK Chairman Yagız Eyuboglu said.

Hailing the government for its efforts to provide camps for the refugees from war-torn Syria, Eyuboglu maintained that the focus should be on dealing with the people on the street. Stating his discomfort with those employers who abuse Syrians for the sake of cheap labor, a problem which also creates unfair competition between different provinces of the country, Eyuboglu said: “If you accept that they will try to work in any case, why not put them on record?”

The refugee crisis in the meantime has brought back the child labor problem to Turkey where a mere 25 percent of the Syrian refugees of school age actually go to school, Eyuboglu added, stating that 450,000 Syrian children lack an education. But the refugees make their own contribution to the economy, Erdogan claimed, quoting a finding of the report: “As many as 1,000 people in the southern province of Kilis work at refugee camps, a huge figure that no company might have procured in a city with the economic size of Kilis.”

Ttitled “Turkish Business World’s Remarks, Expectations and Recommendations on Syrians in Turkey,” the report was drawn up by interviewing 134 sector representatives in Turkey’s 18 most developed provinces that are deemed to be affected the most by Syria’s war. A government proposal to hike the minimum wage by 30 percent was also mentioned at the conference when Today’s Zaman asked TİSK representative Metin Demir how the trend of illegally employing Syrians would be affected when the increase puts an additional burden on employers. Demir said TİSK will bring the issue up for discussion in the commission meetings and said if this 30 percent is shouldered only by business owners, it will definitely increase unregistered employment.