Turkey’s young generation suffering the most in pandemic

Turkey’s young generation suffering the most in pandemic

Today, Turkey is celebrating the 102nd Commemoration of Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day, marking the beginning of the 1919 Independence War. Out of Turkey’s all other national days, perhaps, this is the most meaningful one as it symbolizes the will of an entire country for complete independence and sovereignty.

The Independence War under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was won against the prominent Western powers, resulting in the foundation of the modern Republic of Turkey out of the ashes of a centuries-old empire.

Turkey has been celebrating this day as the Youth and Sports Day since 1938 in a bid to show how much Atatürk cared for the youth and paid importance to future generations.

A report released by the Turkish Statistical Institute under the title of “Youth 2020” on the occasion of the May 19 commemorations has illustrated the most recent state of Turkey’s young generation. Unfortunately, it framed a quite worrisome picture.

According to the report, out of Turkey’s total population of 83.61 million last year, 12.89 million people were aged between 15 and 24, making up 15.4 percent of the total population.

In general, the report outlines that the young people in Turkey are less happy than in the past and struggling with unemployment.

The proportion of young people in the 18-24 age group who declared themselves happy decreased from 56.7 percent in 2019 to 47.2 percent last year, the report said, showing that the happiness rate was 41.4 percent for young men and 53.2 percent for young women in 2020.

About 25.3 percent of young people are unemployed, and the youth labor force participation in the household workforce dropped from 44.1 percent in 2019 to 39.1 percent in 2020. From the gender perspective, this rate from 55.9 percent to 50.1 percent for young men and from 32.6 percent to 27.5 percent for young women. It shows that young people have withdrawn from the labor market as they have lost hope for finding a job.

Around 1.4 million young people in the 15-19 age group are enrolled in the workforce, although they should normally be in education. Some 288 thousand out of them are jobless. On the other hand, the proportion of young people neither in education nor employment was 26 percent in 2019, but it was 28.3 percent last year. This rate is 21.2 percent for young males - with an increase of three percent compared to 2019 - and 35.7 percent for young females in the past year.

In the meantime, the pandemic also hit those who are in education. Experts warned that around 15 percent of children who are deprived of face-to-face education due to the pandemic would not be able to return to schools. Girls are three times more likely than boys not to return to schools, they claim.

Plus, according to the report of TEDMEM, a think tank of the Turkish Education Association, some 710,000 children between the ages of 6 and 17 are out of school, and there is no information about the reasons behind this situation. Among those who are in education, there are nearly 3 million students who cannot access online learning in Turkey, according to the data of the Education Ministry.

For the rest, the problem is about the quality of the education, as many parents see that Turkish students lost one and a half years due to the fact that face-to-face education has been interrupted many times over the past year due to the lockdowns.

For sure, there are structural and deep-rooted reasons for this sad picture of the state of Turkish youth both in employment and education. The economic problems hit the entire country, and the young generation is suffering the most. It’s a must for politics to think over a good strategy to mitigate the negative impacts of the pandemic on the future generations of this country.

Serkan Demirtaş,