More than the survival: Increasing self reliance and formal works

Recognizing the need to support Syrians to become more self reliant and productive members of the Turkish economy, as well as assisting Turkish citizens to meet the dynamic challenges of the labour market, ILO aims at improving employability. In this regard, the “Promoting Decent Work for Syrians under Temporary Protection and Turkish Citizens Project” facilitates the access of Syrians and Turkish citizens to the formal labour market and supports them to develop, strengthen and upgrade their skills and competences.

News | 19 December 2019
© Kıvanç Özvardar / ILO
Eight years after the start of the conflict in Syria, Turkey now hosts 3.6 million Syrians and for the fifth year in a row, this makes Turkey the country hosting the largest number of registered refugees in the world. Syrians have been facing challenges to access the labour market and to find regular work.

Challenges to access the labour market include low employability, limited access to information and services and limited recognition of skills and diplomas. Many are working under praecarious conditions, are low paid and work informally.

Since 2016, Syrians can obtain a work permit through their employer, however, to date, very few have obtained a work permit. Out of the 2.16 million Syrians of working age in Turkey, about one million are estimated to participate in the labour market.

As ILO places decent work at the core of its activities, promoting social and economic security and justice for all, the Project, financed by the Federal Republic of Germany through KfW Development Bank, promotes workers’ rights and decent employment for the Syrians under Temporary Protection and Turkish citizens.

© Kıvanç Özvardar / ILO

An effective incentive scheme for both protecting and creating decent work

Within the project, supporting employers to employ Syrians and Turkish citizens formally through an incentive scheme, costs for social security premiums for up to 8,000 beneficiaries (Syrians and Turkish citizens) will be paid and costs for work permits for 4,000 Syrians will be covered.

Although the project’s activities started not long ago, 385 workers were supported by the project in 2019. The sectorial breakdown of the work places indicates that there is a major tendency to employ Syrians (as well as Turkish Citizens but relatively less) in the labour intensive sectors. Accordingly, textile and shoemaking companies together make more than half of the total jobs supported.

The overall composition of the sectorial breakdown shows that demand is coming often from the sectors requiring limited skills and competencies. On the other hand, as most of the employers say, these sectors do also require more effort to find an employee among locals. The incentives help to employ formally limited but specifically skilled Syrians and decrease their turnover rates for more and efficient production.

Sedat Alkan, the general manager of the Swans Shoe Making Company, one of the several employers benefitting from the incentive scheme by the project says “Shoemaking sector is not an easy one. Some other owners of the shoe making sector in my area ask why I make efforts for Syrians’ formal employment; my answer is simple: Because they deserve it”.

Not a burden but a benefit

© Kıvanç Özvardar / ILO
Employers and employees benefitting from the incentive scheme are also found in the service sector. As the number of patients, for example coming from Middle East for medical treatment or surgery to Turkey is increasing, often due to lower costs of medical services, the need for Arabic speakers notably rose in the health service sector in the last years. Two young Syrian women, Avin Hannan, 21, and Roz Allothman, 18 are among them. They both work for Mest Medifema Assistance Company and help foreigners who come to Turkey for health tourism. Mest Medifema now employs 71 employees in total; the majority of them are Syrian.

Roz and Avin both came from Aleppo, Syria and while learning Turkish, they continued to study and work. They now work at Mest Medifema among Syrians and locals. Roz, (pic on the left) once completes her high school, wants to study medicine, if she cannot, she would like to become a nurse. Avin as well, wants to continue to work in health sector.

Her colleague Gamze Fırat, 23, another Turkish colleague says, “We learned while working together that Syrians are not a threat for our jobs but it opens new doors for new jobs as well”.

With the idea to empower women, the project has a focus also on strengthening the capacities of both individuals and institutions. The total number of women whose employment was supported by the project until now reached 27%, slightly below the project target of 30%.

The project is a part of the ILO’s Programme of Support to Refugees and Host Communities in Turkey and covers several cities across Turkey. It is expected to operate until the end of 2022.

© Kıvanç Özvardar / ILO