Unemployment rate slightly up, 1 in 5 Turkish young people jobless

Turkey’s overall unemployment rate went up from 10.2 percent to 11.2 percent year-on-year in February, while the same rate for young people spiked to 20 percent, the state statistics agency said on Friday, highlighting the pressures on the economy weeks before the parliamentary elections.

The jobless rate announced on Friday was the highest February reading over the past five years.

The unemployed population surged by 451,000 people to hit 3.26 million in February, compared to the same month a year ago, data released by the Turkish Statistics Institute (TurkStat) revealed.

However, the criticism over the calculation methodology of official statistics has yet to disappear, suggesting a larger spectrum of people is suffering from unemployment.

TurkStat data said the labor participation rate was at 50.1 percent, with 28.8 million employed as of February.

While the overall unemployment rate increased to 11.2 percent, the non-agricultural jobless rate upped by 1.1 percentage points to 13.2 percent and youth unemployment rate — referring to people aged between 15 and 24 — soared to 20 percent.

What is more daunting with regards to youth unemployment is the staggering proportion of young people in Turkey who are neither employed nor engaged in education or training.

Around 5.3 million out of 17 million young people in Turkey aged between 15 and 29 were classified as “Not in employment, education, or training” (NEET) in the most recent ranking utilizing data from countries in 2013, topping the list at 31.25 percent and ranking higher than all other the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) members.

The ratio of inactive NEETs in Turkey who are no longer actively seeking employment, however, suggested that four out of five NEETs were no longer looking for work.

In February, the unregistered employment rate was 31.7 percent.

quotThe rise in unemployment is continuing,quot ii Investment economist Muammer KOmurcuoilu said in a note. quotWe think the big picture will not change and that, for as long as there is not a strong pick-up in growth, the high unemployment rate will continue.quot

The troubles of the Turkish job market go well beyond those short-time-calculated statistics. According to the Ministry of Labor and Social Security data, the unionization density corresponding to the ratio of wage and salary earners that are trade union members, divided by the total number of the labor market, massively dipped from 57.5 percent in 2003 to 9.68 percent in 2014, signifying a worsening trend.

Turkey has by far the highest proportion of employees working very long hours among all OECD countries, coming last in a work-life balance index prepared by the organization. The latest OECD statistics, close to half — 43.3 percent — of all employees in Turkey work 50 hours or more a week, far more than the average ndash 9 percent — across all OECD members.

In the meantime, several opposition party deputies have repeatedly criticized the methodology of TurkStat when comparing key indicators regarding the economy. The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), which recently kicked off an economy-focused election campaign, has long claimed that the real number of unemployed people in Turkey is hushed up by the government. According to remarks by CHP deputies, the number of people who are not looking for work but would work if an opportunity arose amounts to around 2.4 million, a number that pushes the official rate up to around 20 percent, or the number of unemployed up to 5.6 million.

The lira firmed to 2.5890 against the dollar by 08:56 GMT, its strongest level in more than a month, from 2.5976 late on Thursday. The main BIST 100 share index rose 0.5 percent to 87,678.32 points. The benchmark 10-year government bond yield eased to 8.94 percent from 8.96 percent.