Turkey’s unemployed university graduates take unskilled jobs

Turkey’s unemployed university graduates take unskilled jobs

Esra Açıkgöz- ISTANBUL
Turkey’s unemployed university graduates take unskilled jobs

The number of unemployed university graduates has been on the rise in Turkey. Given few job opportunities in the market, many graduates are forced to work as security personnel, delivery people or even shepherds.

According to the latest data from the Turkish Statistical Institute (TUİK), announced on Jan. 15, the jobless rate among Turkey’s university graduates stood at 12.8 percent. But this figure may not reflect the true extent of the problem as the TUİK data is based on figures provided by İşkur, the state employment agency. Most university graduates do not seek jobs through İşkur.

Female university graduates discriminated against

According to Gülay Toksöz, from Ankara University’s labor economics and industrial relations department, TÜİK data from September 2017 showed that there were more than 1 million jobless university graduates in the country - 659,000 of whom were women.

“The unemployment rate among male graduates was 8.8 percent, but the corresponding figure for female university graduates was 21.1 percent,” Toksöz said.

Toksöz points to several factors that explain higher unemployment rate among female graduates.

“Potential employers are prejudiced against women because of the sexist mindset dominating the job market. Also, companies are reluctant to hire women who could go on leave or quit their jobs when they get married or have children. They hire women as temporary workers,” Toksöz added.

“When we first launched Esas Social in 2015, the unemployment rate among university graduates was 24 percent. But it rose to 28 percent in 2016 and further to 35 percent this year,” said Emine Sabancı Kamışlı, the vice chair of Esas Holding, in an interview with journalist Vahap Munyar back in September 2017.

“Companies do not hire people who did not graduate from the country’s top 10-15 universities while they also expect new graduates to have at least three years of job experience,” she added.

Careers as shepherds and deliverymen

Orhan Çay graduated from the social services department of Atatürk University in 2015 but he now works as a shepherd in his hometown Tunceli, an eastern province in Turkey. “That is the only job I know,” he said.

Çay, 31 years old, returned to Tunceli after his efforts to find a job failed.

“I have been looking for a job for two years now. But nothing has come up. I took the Public Personnel Selection Exam [KPSS] because I wanted to get a job in the state. The year I graduated from university the state employed 60 people who graduated from the social services departments. But in the following years, the figure was much less,” Çay said.

According to Çay, the state now recruits far fewer people than it did before. But he added that students flock to certain departments at universities, which is reducing the chances of finding a job because of competition.

Mücteba Kara, a 33-year-old, also tried finding a government job, but failed. He now works as a part-time deliveryman. Kara graduated from the public finances department of Akdeniz University.

He complains that the competition for state jobs is unfair.

“The KPSS exam is tough. You have to study at least eight hours a day. Depending on your score, state institutions ask you to take another exam. If your score is high enough you are invited for an interview. But ‘favoritism’ is widespread and all your hard work goes up in smoke,” Kara said.

Kara enrolled in the medical screening department at a university in the western Kocaeli province. He started to work as a deliveryman to meet university expenses.

“I have been unemployed for five years, this is not a real job,” he said.


Serap Akbulut, 29, graduated with an honors from the public administration department at Sütçü İmam University in the eastern Kahramanmaraş province. But she now works as a security personnel.

Akbulut failed the KPSS exam she took in 2010. “My family had financial problems,” she said, adding that she was under pressure from her family to either find a job or get married.

Facing such pressure, Akbulut first worked at a call center and then took another job at another company. “My supervisor was an elementary school graduate and was very hard on us. There was huge psychological pressure,” she recalled.

Akbulut later decided to get a certificate to become a private security officer as she saw more job opportunities in this field. She has been working at a high school as a security for two years. Although not the job she was trained for in university, it helps her support her family financially and probably to make her dreams come true.

“I support my family and I can also afford to take courses to prepare for the KPSS exam. I am under huge pressure. My family has expectations from me,” she said.

“I studied hard at university and I want to reap the fruits of my labor. The state should employ more people,” Akbulut added.