Economic development and employment

Training and employment for refugees and the local population

In Turkey, employment and training schemes offer direct ways of earning income and improve people’s prospects on the labour market.

Training and employment for refugees and the local population

Refugees from Syria and people in the host regions in Turkey are living under difficult economic conditions. Now, in addition to working in short-term jobs, they can take language courses, acquire vocational skills and put these skills into practice in companies. They are paid direct wages and improve their prospects of finding stable employment.

Ibrahim Mohamed Almohamed, aged 24, from Syria is now more hopeful about the future. He and his family of six live in Turkey. He worked as a teacher in Homs up until 2016. In Turkey, he began by taking on casual jobs, toiling away for 12 hours a day. In Gaziantep, Ibrahim Mohamed Almohamed took Turkish lessons and trained as a systems operator. He now operates plant and machines in a yarn factory that produces materials to make textiles. ‘Now I’m legally employed with medical insurance and have more time for my family,’ he said. Looking to the future, he hopes to acquire Turkish citizenship and to work as a teacher again one day. 

He is not alone in his fate: some four million people have found refuge in Turkey since the start of the war in Syria – more than in any other country. Refugees and the local population in the host communities are facing huge challenges. Towns and communities are unable to cope with the sheer numbers. Refugees and the local population alike often lack legal sources of income. Nevertheless, companies in Gaziantep and other regions are finding it difficult to find trained workers with particular skills.

On behalf of the German Government, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH is supporting Turkish authorities and local partner organisations in their efforts to improve the financial prospects for refugees and the local population in need of support. The people work in fixed-term construction projects or cultural and social institutions and are paid directly for their work (‘cash for work’). These arrangements meet two urgent wishes expressed by displaced people and the local population: they are able to work and can earn their own income. Support is also provided for self-employed people, for example in overcoming bureaucratic or legal obstacles so that they can set themselves up on the formal labour market. Between 2016 and 2018, a total of 553 companies run by Syrians were registered that were formerly operating on an unofficial basis.

A pilot project being implemented in collaboration with Gaziantep Chamber of Industry is pursuing an additional approach. This programme, which combines training courses and practical experience, was the one that Ibrahim Mohamed Almohamed took part in. The first step involves courses to prepare candidates for jobs in areas such as door and window construction, painting and decorating, and metalwork. They can subsequently apply their new skills in small and medium-sized enterprises directly, where they familiarise themselves with practical aspects. They are paid the statutory minimum wage for this work, half of which is financed by the organisations involved and half by the companies. In addition, Syrian participants take Turkish lessons, which allow them to improve their prospects on the labour market in the long term. 

Turkish experts are also getting involved in cash for work projects, including the law student Meryem Özge Karabağ. In a joint initiative by GIZ and the non-governmental organisation International Blue Crescent, she provides free advice to Syrian refugees on legal matters in Sultanbeyli, a district of Istanbul. ‘This project has allowed me to gain initial professional experience. Even though it’s just a short-term job, I’m getting a great deal out of it,’ explained the 25-year-old graduate, who has a Bachelor’s degree. In Gaziantep too, local residents are also benefiting from the programme along with displaced people. Sixty per cent of the participants there came from Syria, and forty per cent from Turkey. 

A total of 25,000 people have taken part in jobs initiatives in Turkey since 2016, more than half of them women. This enables them to stabilise their household finances: Eight out of ten of those completing the programme confirmed that they can provide for their families using the income from the projects.

In addition to generating more income and creating new employment prospects, the programmes also enhance social cohesion in the host regions: Seventy per cent of the participants stated that they now have more friends and acquaintances as a result of the project.

Last update: April 2020

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