I keep traveling around Turkey to attend a number of conferences, talks and signing event for my latest book “Exit from Economics”. The impressions I got during my visits mean a lot to me as an economists.
It makes me really sad to see people have no interest whatsoever in anything that falls outside the triangle of FX rates, interest rates and stock market. On the other hands, the questions I get from the young entrepreneurs give me hope both for the future of humanity and my country.
Here’s some good news: A lot of people told me that their businesses are doing quite well, except for a few basic problems. However, some business owners, those who are doing business with the Gulf Countries in particular, told me that they’ve been experiencing import-related problems because of tensions between Turkey and some other countries in the region.
Everyone agrees that they should focus more on “production” but they don’t know exactly what they should produce. Other than that, employers seem really concerned about the future unemployed workers due to the fact that less and less workers are now working at the factories.
I do my best to make them feel less concerned since I don’t think skilled workers will have difficulty finding a new job that matches their abilities. The digitization of industry will inevitably follow whether or not unskilled employees choose to work the industrial sector. Businesses that are determined to resist digitalization and artificial intelligence will continue to hire Syrian migrants and refugees coming from other countries for a while more. But, they too will perish in the end.
Turkey will have to make changes to the following three industries:
- Conventional Industries
- Digitized Industries
- Digital Industry
Although the industries in the second and third place seem more promising in terms of adding/creating value, the education in Turkey wasn’t perfected yet to train business people capable of neither creating nor adding values. PISA for Development Database and many other parameters show us that we are aware of this very fact. However, young people do not to work in conventional industry. They now tend to engage in service sector activities because of occupational accidents, workplaces that are inconveniently far from population centres, poor physical and social environment of the workplace, and of course, bad management.
“Most Turkish business people are humanists…”
Unemployment and job preferences were among the issues that business people should be least concerned about in the 20th century, in this century, however, they are considered one of the “top risk factors”, but not for any humanistic reasons. The higher a country’s unemployment rate the more likely it is that you will get difficulty selling your products there. Besides, we should not forget that high unemployment always leads to social unrest and endangers investments.
I might say that business people in Turkey seem to be genuinely concerned about the future and work preferences of young people. “Let nature take its course” that’s the one good suggestion I always give to employers when trying to convince them to let young people do what they want; because the more employers feel worried about them the more they want to talk young, skilled people into working for them. That’s why everyone should keep their cool and let the nature take its course.
Turkey has the highest level of youth unemployment among Eastern European countries but I do not believe that these figures do accurately reflect the reality. I think youth unemployment in Turkey is not as high as thought. But it is also obvious that a lot of young and unemployed people do not want to apply to available yet conventional positions. To them, corporate life is nothing but some sort of “modern day slavery”.
In short, I sincerely believe that we’ll find the right balance between industry, employment and work preferences. But on our path to find this balance, we’ll undoubtedly have to go through some tough challenges.