According to figures released by the Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK – TurkStat), Turkey’s unemployment rate increased marginally to 12.9% in May 2020 from 12.8% in April 2020. The figure for the month of May of the previous year was 12.8%. The rate for May 2020 comprises all those of 15 years of age and above, and represents a total figure of unemployed of 3,826,000, a decrease of 331,000 on the figure for the same month of the previous year.
The unemployment rate for people aged between 15 and 64 was given as 13.2%, the estimated unemployment rate for those outside agriculture was given as 15.2%, and the unemployment rate among the young, which comprises of people aged between 15 and 24, was given as 24.9% in May 2020.
The number of people in the workforce in May 2020 was 25,858 thousand people, some 2,411 thousand lower than the same month of the previous year. This labour force total was 41.4% of the total population over 15 years of age. The number of workers available for work in May 2020 is 29,684 thousand, a fall of 2,742 thousand on the same month of the previous year and 47.6% of the total population over 15 years of age.
There is much criticism of TurkStat’s employment statistics because of its definition of unemployed as those who have registered for unemployment within the last four weeks, whereas before 2014, this period was three months. Based on many other sources such as trade unions, the real unemployment rate is at least two times the official TurkStat calculation.
The onset of the coronavirus pandemic and Turkey’s efforts to isolate the population as from March 2020 resulted in the Turkish economy being severely affected and much higher unemployment levels expected. Incredibly, the unemployment rate fell in both March and April 2020, and has increased only slightly in May 2020.
An explanation is needed for why the total workforce (those working and those looking for work) is 29,684 thousand, 2,742 thousand lower than the same month of the previous year. There has clearly been a significant calculation revision by TurkStat reducing the total workforce. Furthermore, despite the government’s ban on workers being laid off as of April 17th for a three month period, the coronavirus pandemic would by no means have resulted in an environment whereby workplaces would consider taking on new personnel, so it is incomprehensible as to why unemployment could have fallen in March and April and remained basically the same in May. Official unemployment figures in recent months particularly have attracted much criticism from opposition parties and in the social media. Following also the scepticism about the official monthly inflation rates, TurkStat would have appeared to have lost much credibility for preparing independent and reliable statistics.