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Employment Outlook: Turkey

by Mary Anne Thompson, founder and president, Goinglobal, Inc

Over the last few years, Turkey has faced political instability, security challenges and a number of terror attacks targeting foreigners. The most recent military coup attempt in Turkey could have negative consequences for the country’s economy and security for months to come. One should consider the security situation in Turkey before travel or relocation.

By Mary Anne Thompson, founder and president, Goinglobal, Inc. 

Turkey is an aspiring European Union member – currently holding an associate membership – and a full member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Its geographic position places the country in the midst of the current turmoil in the Middle East. Turkey is the largest recipient of Syrian refugees, approximately 3 million. 

While the Turkish government has spent more than 11 billion EUR on aid for refugees, the country is experiencing financial pressure as its economy shrinks. Political turmoil in Turkey during the summer of 2016, along with Russian sanctions, negatively impacted Turkish economy, which is contracting for the first time since 2009. Additionally, a number of terrorist attacks shook Turkey over the last couple of years. Security concerns further complicate economic activity. 

Despite these challenges, Turkey’s economy is steady, its population is youthful, its middle class is growing and its entrepreneurial class is dynamic. The country’s major economic center is Istanbul, but there are signs of growth in the capital of Ankara, as well as Izmir and Bursa. 

Employment Outlook


Turkey’s unemployment rate of 11.8 percent is well above the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s average of 6 percent. An additional challenge for the Turkish labor market is its youth (those that are 15 to 24 year old), many of whom are neither working nor attending school, with an unemployment rate of 21.2 percent. 

The employment forecast for Turkey is nonetheless positive with slight employment increases predicted for the following year. The long-term employment forecast predicts an almost 8 percent employment increase by 2020.

The employment rate of women in Turkey’s workforce has reached 30 percent, which is still significantly lower than the average in the other OECD member countries. Less than one-third of women in Turkey are employed in the country’s work force. Moreover, many women work at low-paying, insecure jobs. Very few women in Turkey are employed in management roles.

However, the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the Turkish Employment Agency (??KUR) have launched a new project to promote women’s employment and improve their job opportunities.

Short Term Outlook

The country continues to suffer from a lack of qualified local talent in certain fields, which makes the job market exceptionally attractive to qualified foreign nationals. The employers in Turkey expect the hiring pace to continue to be modest but stable in the coming period, as reported in the ManpowerGroup survey.

The most optimistic hiring plans come from employers in Turkey’s construction, finance, insurance, real estate and business services sectors. Significant hiring is expected in the electricity, gas and water supply sectors.

Long Term Outlook

Emerging Sectors

Information technology is one of the key growth markets in Turkey. It is a hub for multiple global technology leaders, including Microsoft, Intel and Hewlett-Packard. 

E-commerce: The e-commerce market in Turkey is predicted to reach 160 billion USD by 2023.

Digital marketing: Although spending on digital marketing is still low, demand for digital marketing tools such as search engine advertising and social media will increase rapidly. This field will grow for the foreseeable future, and there are few candidates with the requisite skills.

Energy: Turkey’s energy market is one of the fastest growing in the world. The country’s strategic location between Europe, the Caspian region and the Middle East makes it a key player in the gas and oil sector. The wind energy industry is emerging and will likely continue to grow.

Construction: The construction sector is growing as the country begins an ambitious program of urban renewal and invests in a number of large-scale construction projects.

Retail: Overall population growth is a boost to the country’s retail sector. Retail, both in store and online, continues to expand. The forecast is that it will grow by 4.2 percent over the next four years.

Insurance and life insurance: Interest in insurance, including private pensions, has grown to the extent that foreign insurance companies are investing there and working with local firms.

Tourism is one of the country’s most dynamic industries. However, political instability and tension is negatively impacting profits in the sector. Over the last 12 months, Russian tourism sharply declined, but Turkish travel agents are opening new markets in China and India, and new campaigns are targeting tourists from Europe.

Areas of Job Promise

Turkey’s services and industry sectors have opportunities for highly qualified foreign nationals, particularly in information technology, financial services, engineering, teaching, medical and health care, and management. Translators and English language editors/proofreaders are also in demand.

Talent Shortages

Employers report some of the world’s most severe talent shortages; 66 percent of employers surveyed by ManpowerGroup reported difficulty finding the right person for open positions, well above the global average of 40 percent.

Ten hardest jobs to fill in Turkey

  • Skilled trades
  • Engineers
  • IT Personnel
  • Technicians
  • Accounting and finance staff
  • Sales representatives
  • Laborers
  • Management/Executive roles
  • Restaurants and hotel staff
  • Management/Executive (Management/Corporate)

The mismatch between talent supply and demand will likely persist into the next decade, according to Oxford Economics.

Skills in Demand

  • Digital marketers
  • Doctors
  • Engineers
  • Bilingual skills
  • Teaching English as a Second Language


Turkey continues to experience challenges from its precarious placement in the world to its skills shortages and high unemployment. But despite these negatives, employers are optimistic about the future as sectors continue to grow and others, like digital marketing and e-commerce, emerge.


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