Internal migration dynamics in Turkey
I think I first heard it from Bernard Lewis – the Turks’ endless fascination in moving westward. He writes of the move from Central Asia into Anatolia and the Balkans and then ties it to modern Turkey’s bid for the European Union. Regardless of Lewis’ politics, he was on to something. Have a look at the population movements within the country in the last 50-something-years. Turkey is a country on the move. Turks, Kurds and others in the Eastern provinces are still picking up and moving west. Even a cursory glance at the numbers will tell you western cities grow disproportionately.
Let’s divide Turkey into three parts, according to population dynamics. Picture the map and assume there are two vertical lines dividing the country into three: One down from Kocaeli to Antalya, both cities remaining in the western part and a second from Trabzon to Şanlıurfa. The rest is the eastern part of Turkey. In 1965, the country’s population was evenly distributed between the western, central and eastern parts. That remained more or less the same in 1980. The west had an uptick from 34 percent to 39 percent, but both eastern and central parts had a population of over 30 percent, which is not a significant change. In 2000, however, you see the western part swelling up to 44 percent, while central Turkey declined to 30 percent and the east to 26 percent. In 2012, these shares were 49, 28 and 23 percent, respectively. That means the western share of the total population has increased by 15 percent since 1965.
These, mind you, only include people who moved permanently. There is also a considerable population that still moves west for seasonal jobs. Those jobs used to be exclusively in agriculture, but now include things like mining or shipyard work in the western provinces.
Why do Turks move west? I think it’s because those parts are much more integrated into the European economy. It is migration out of economic necessity. People uproot their lives to give their children a better future.