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    Are you ready for Turkey’s test with the youth?

    Güven Sak, PhD05 January 2010 - Okunma Sayısı: 1219


    These are the first days of 2010. The process we are in for a while now somehow reminds me Charles Dickens's "A Tale of Two Cities." Do you remember how the story begins? It reads like this: "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times." It seems that 2010 is most likely to be such a period.  I will not be making a political analysis. In contrast, I believe that the "Ankara Tussles" overshadow the real agenda item. I believe that 2010 will be the year for Turkey's test with the youth. Let me explain why.

    It seems that 2010 is in line for being the year for Turkey's test with the youth. In 2010, either "This country cares you" message will be conveyed to the youth or the youth will give up hope on Turkey. The truth is crystal clear. This is for two reasons. First, half of Turkey's population is below 30 years old. Youth enters the labor force like large armies. Turkey failed to reduce unemployment rate after 2002 not because the industry and services sector did not create new employment opportunities but because young population participates rapidly in the labor force and the structure of Turkey changes rapidly. It is striking that 75 percent of the population live in urban areas. Second, even Turkey achieves 4.3 percent growth in 2010, unemployment rate cannot be dragged down. In other words, even 4.3 percent of growth will prove "infertile growth" for 2010. This is what TEPAV's calculations suggest. Here, infertile growth refers to the wasting of Turkey's young population day by day. This implies that any types of polarization will become more prominent in the coming period. This is the best of times; this is the worst of times.

    Turkey's demographic structure is both an opportunity and a curse. "Ankara Tussles", which are the product of the daily and mundane power struggles of Turkey and which occupy the fake agenda of the media, are not real. Where does the reality lie? Turkey does not give consideration to the problems of youth. Are you aware that we do not pay enough attention to the young population reaching the age to participate in the labor force with an increasing pace? If we were paying due attention, the youth would have constitute the main dynamics of Turkey's European Union journey. But this is not the case.  We do not need European Union's support in Turkey's agriculture or urban infrastructure investments for Turkey-European Union rapprochement. At the essence of Turkey's EU transformation lie building skills of the young population and revising the education system at all levels as well including Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK) and Higher Education Board (YÖK). Do we see such an attempt to restructure the future? No we do not. Narrowness of Ankara's horizon brings about desperateness for Turkey. Concerns for political prosperity cast a shadow on Turkey's horizon.

    So, is Turkey's way blocked? Far from it! The thing to be done is clear: Turkey has to improve the skill level and business capacity of the people at the labor force participation age. There is no need to think at length to accomplish this. Young population must be equipped with fundamental generic skills required to do business in the current environment. What are these skills? As surveys conducted by TEPAV suggests, the most important skills required to find a job are computer literacy and proficiency in English. If these skills are built, it becomes possible to ensure a leap in the quality of the labor force. For those wondering why, I recommend to take a look at the machinery used in any factory. Machinery ever increasingly has computer-like controls and instructions are mainly in English. And those wondering "Where does this take us?" can take a look at the impacts of skill development trainings implemented by South Korea in 1997 crisis. Discussion papers on this subject are accessible in TEPAV and Koç University-ERF websites. It is a huge deficiency that Turkey still lacks what Korea accomplished in three months.

    The brownout caused by political discussions shadow the real agenda priorities of Turkey. But it should not. If we waste 2010 as well by not taking any measures, we will have a long time to regret afterwards.

    Now it is time to stop talking and take action.

    2010 is in line for being the year of Turkey's test with the youth.


    This commentary was published in Referans daily on 05.01.2010