Do you want to be poor or rich when you grow old?

Do you want to be poor or rich when you grow old?

İsmet Berkan
Is this a question now? Of course we would want to be rich. Maybe not too rich, but we would want to have a comfortable retirement, at least an old age when we would not have money problems.

This is true for individuals. What about the whole society, when we think about the entire population?

For example, right now, most European countries have an aged population, but because of the high added value and the relative richness they have created beforehand, they live a much better life, for instance compared to India, which has a much younger population, or us.

Well, when Turkey grows old, how will we live? Do we want to spend our old age like the European countries that today we slightly sniff at by saying, “They are old and they have economic issues,” or are we going to have to settle with even less than what we possess today?

This is the question before Turkey. Don’t get distracted with the brawl in the political arena, which prevents us from discussing this issue.

Because, as of 26 years from now on, in other words, in 2040, Turkey’s population’s average age will be older than most European countries. Yes, you have read it correctly; the average age of such countries as France, United Kingdom, Holland and Germany will be younger than us.

Our story resembles the example of the cricket and the ant. If we do not become an ant as of today, in other words, if we do not save for tough times, then poverty will stick to us and never leave us. Moreover, we might even settle for less than what we have today.

I am not saying the daily political fights are not important, but no fight should make us forget the big picture in the background.

My son is 10 years old and it concerns me very much about what kind of a country he will live in on his 40th birthday. I think it should concern you, too.

And will it be us who will be deciding today on what kind of a life our children will lead in their 40s and 50s?

Turkey will either be an advanced economy or it will remain (maybe go back) where it is.

It is, however, impossible for Turkey to be an advanced economy before it transforms into an advanced democracy, where rule of law is accepted, where the guidance of science is adopted and where education is delivered at world standards.

If we achieve to constitute an advanced democracy, human rights and rule of law, as well as an education system that can compete with the world, then we will obtain their results in 10 to 15 years.
This window of opportunity, as I said before, will be open for 25 or 26 years; after that, things may not be as easy as today.

It is time for us to ponder and decide.

Being world champion in young unemployment

The International Labor Organization’s (ILO) “Global Employments Trends 2013” report has been issued.

One of the outstanding graphics in this report was about young unemployment. When the rates of those between the ages of 15 and 29 who do not attend school, vocational training or work anywhere are considered, then Turkey is the world champion.

There are two reasons for youth unemployment to be this high: First, unemployment is already high in the country; it is also widespread among the young; second, young people lack the education that equip them with the knowledge, skills and ability that new lines of businesses demand.

I guess both reasons are valid for us. Our education system unfortunately does not equip people with the required knowledge and skills.

Youth unemployment is not a cause; it is a consequence, and we actually have the means to change this.

İsmet Berkan is a columnist for daily Hürriyet in which this piece was published Jan 25. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.