While western Turkey is traditionally known to have lower unemployment rates compared to the east, the recent influx of migrants from the east has led to high unemployment in regions like İzmir, Kocaeli and Antalya, where the creation of new jobs has not been able to keep up with demand, leading to job saturation.

A heavy influx of migrants has created high non-agricultural unemployment rates in İzmir, according to a recently published Betam research report, which analyzed the regional distribution of non-agricultural unemployment throughout the country.

The report, which examined 26 regions in Turkey from 2005 to 2011, revealed some interesting findings regarding the country’s unemployment rates. While western Turkey is traditionally known to have lower unemployment rates compared to the eastern part of the country, the report found İzmir, Kocaeli, Aydın and Antalya to be exceptions. Betam attributed higher unemployment rates in these regions to a higher influx of migrants in the population unable to find work due to an already saturated job market and a lack of job creation to absorb migrant workers.

İzmir, Turkey’s third largest city, registered an exceptionally high unemployment rate of 16.5 percent in 2011, while unemployment in Kocaeli hit a high 14.7.

“These figures indicate that almost as important as a region’s development level is the impact of external migration on the unemployment rate,” read the report.


In Ankara, Turkey’s second largest city, unemployment is at only 9.9 percent as most of the city’s population is employed in Ankara’s industrial and public sectors, according to the report.

The report also analyzed regions where unemployment both increased and decreased between 2005 and 2011. Out of the 26 regions examined, unemployment decreased in 12 regions and increased in 14. Malatya, Elazığ, Bingöl, Tunceli, Adana, Mersin, Kırıkkale, Aksaray, Niğde, Nevşehir, Kırşehir and Ankara witnessed a drop in unemployment. Conversely, Ağrı, Antalya, Isparta, Burdur, Van, Zonguldak, Karabük, Bartın, Aydın, Denizli and Muğla saw an increase in unemployment over the years.

West has not been able to create employment

“Antalya and Aydın, which are located in the southwest of Turkey, have witnessed large migration from the east over the past six years, but have not been able to create auxiliary employment to absorb these migrants,” said the report. The report also claimed that migrants of Kurdish origin may face discrimination when seeking employment in these regions which could partially account for the rising unemployment trend.

Areas like Van, in eastern Turkey, also registered an increase in unemployment, which the report attributed to migration from rural areas to the city center, versus east to west migration as seen in the case of İzmir. Furthermore, the report found that cities like Zonguldak on Turkey’s Black Sea coast were unable to create sufficient new employment opportunities through job creation in the given period, resulting in an increase in their unemployment rate.

Turkey, as a whole, however, witnessed a 3.4 percent increase in non-agricultural employment. The report found three main factors behind this increase – migration, the natural surge in the country’s population and the increase in the percentage of women employed in the workforce – which will have both positive and negative effects on the unemployment rate, according to the report.

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