Welcoming refugees, Turkey now reaps economic benefits

Welcoming refugees, Turkey now reaps economic benefits

Welcoming refugees, Turkey now reaps economic benefits

Syrian entrepreneurs provide a living for at least 7% of their 3.6 million compatriots in Turkey, according to a study released this week by a Turkish-based think tank.

Analyzing the performance of refugee-driven firms operating in eight provinces near the Syrian border, the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey, (TEPAV) surveyed some 400 companies, about half refugee-driven and half not.

Highlighting Syrians' entrepreneurial spirit, TEPAV, based in the capital Ankara, said more than half (59.4%) of the Syrian business owners were successful.

"A gradual increase in entrepreneurial activity by Syrians was seen in Turkey starting in 2011,” the start of the Syrian civil war, said the report.

“Throughout Turkey some 10,000 companies have been established by Syrians since 2011, with an average of seven people employed per company," it added.

Over 100,000 companies are actively operating in eight pilot provinces mainly in southern and southeastern Turkey, near the Syrian border, it said, including 2,122 firms, or roughly 2% of the total.

Of all Syrian respondents, 24% were first-time entrepreneurs helping refugees establish start-ups, and 84% of them employed fewer than 10 people, while the remaining employed 10-49 people.

The report added that roughly 250,000 Syrians are "benefiting from the advantages of employment by refugee-driven companies.”

The think tank said Syrian companies in Turkey are more export-oriented than their Turkish counterparts.

"Among the surveyed companies, 55.4% of the Syrian businesses are exporting, while only 30.9% of Turkish companies do," the report said, suggesting that due to the competitiveness of the Turkish domestic market, Syrian companies prefer being export-oriented, aided by their many foreign connections.

The study also pointed to a correlation between the rising number of Syrian enterprises in Turkey and trade with Syria climbing to pre-war levels, with more than half of refugee-driven companies being micro-sized and operating predominantly in the service sector.

Also, 75% of surveyed Syrians said before coming to Turkey they had run their own businesses, with roughly 11% having opened a firm in a different country- mostly in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.

These companies benefited the most from "data on foreign market trends" and "information about legal and bureaucratic processes" offered by provincial chambers, said the report.

Geographical proximity to Syria was the key driving force for Syrians founding their business in Turkey, along with the presence of existing commercial relationships.

Compared with Turkish companies, employees and managers of Syrian establishments were more likely to be university graduates, said the study.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency about the study, Murat Kenanoğlu, a policy analyst at TEPAV, said it tried to compare and contrast Turkish and Syrian start-ups.

"We wanted to see the role of the entrepreneurship in Syrian's integration to Turkey's labor market," he said.

He added that entrepreneurship could be a viable alternative to wage employment and could spearhead Syrians' integration into Turkey's formal economy.

Turkey hosts some 3.6 million Syrian refugees, more than any other country in the world.