Turkey’s acute shortage of skills
It’s the creative class that makes a country tick. I see two trends regarding the one in Turkey. Firstly, in the wake of the Gezi Park incident in Istanbul, Turkey is still pursuing a vendetta against its creative class. Why? It was the creative class that took to the streets in late May and early June. Quarrelling with your best thinkers is a bad idea if you are going for an innovative jump in the economy. That brings me to the second trend: Turkey is suffering from an acute shortage of skills. That is common knowledge, but it appears now that this is getting worse. That is what makes the first trend more dangerous in the short to medium term.
I am using the term creative class a la Richard Florida. These are the young urban professionals of Turkey: scientists, engineers, computer programmers, artists, researchers or the professionals of business and finance, education, healthcare and the legal sector. These professionals are the super creative core of the country. Men as well as women. There is usually no problem in female participation within this group. Florida analysis notes them to be around 40 percent of the workforce in the US. This is the skilled workforce of a country, and that is where Turkey has an acute problem according to a recent survey.
The Talent Shortage Survey was conducted by ManpowerGroup. It covers around 38,000 employers in 42 countries and territories. When you ask whether an employer has difficulty in filling an open position due to a skills gap or shortage, 57 percent in Turkey say they do. The global average for that answer is around 35 percent only. After Japan and Brazil, Turkey is third in the skills shortage list. Japan may have other reasons for being in the list, but Turkey definitely has a problem in its education system.
Not only that, the shortage is becoming a more severe problem in Turkey increasing 17 percentage points between 2012 and 2013. That is second only to Hong Kong’s 22 percentage point rise from 2012 to 2013.
The perception of the skills shortage is coming from a dearth of engineers in Turkey. That may be surprising considering the number of engineering faculties in the country. The problem is that filling this skills gap is not a short-term issue. That is why any policy of countering this skills shortage requires a solid immigration policy, inviting the skilled labor force of the surrounding region into Turkey. Otherwise, the middle income trap will close in around us.
Turkey needs to stop fighting its creative class and start focusing on enlarging its size. That is the message of the 2013 Talent Shortage Survey, if you ask me. We need better technical education in schools and a more liberal immigration policy. Present conditions could yield some interesting opportunities – bring in the Greek engineers, please.