WFP and TRC developed the Livelihoods Survey to provide additional evidence to inform the design of the transition from basic needs assistance to more sustainable livelihoods opportunities for refugees in Turkey. The survey sample is drawn from the ESSN applicant pool and aims to assess the potential for refugee integration into Turkish labour markets, as well as to identify key constraints.
The survey was conducted among ESSN beneficiaries and ineligible applicants from 19 provinces in Turkey. The provinces were grouped into three geographical regions: West Turkey, Central Anatolia and South Turkey. In order to have representative data at the provincial level, a sample size of 284 surveys in each province was set and a total of 5,332 surveys were conducted. This survey is representative of ESSN applicants within the 19 provinces included in the survey. This is equivalent to a total of 413,025 households, including approximately 2.4 million people. Data collection took place in the period June-November 2018.
The results show that 84 percent of refugee households had at least one person who is working. Only 3 percent of the refugees were working with a work permit, indicating that the vast majority were working informally with limited job security. Those with a work permit tended to be concentrated in the Central region of the country, with 17 percent of refugees in Konya reportedly working with a work permit.
Prior to coming to Turkey, the majority of refugees reported that they were working regularly, including 30 percent who were self-employed. Seventeen percent of refugees reported being unemployed in in their country of origin before arrival in Turkey, almost the same as the unemployment rate in Turkey among respondents. However, the results also indicate that the labour market conditions and refugees’ participation in the labour market in their country of origin and in Turkey were very different in terms of formality of work, employment conditions, types of work, and wages.
According to the survey findings, 20 percent of the refugees in Turkey were working in unskilled services, followed by textile (19 percent), construction (12 percent), and artisanship (10 percent). The sectors where refugees were least employed were shoemaking (6 percent), commercial services and handyman jobs (both 5 percent). These national percentages vary by province, with almost half of refugees in Istanbul working in the textile industry, versus almost a quarter working in agriculture in Mersin.
The data demonstrates that unemployment is relatively high among refugees with no formal education, but also those with higher levels of education. Of the 18 percent of refugees classified as educated (i.e. had graduated from university or high school), one-fifth were unemployed. Similarly, the one-fifth of those without any formal education were unemployed. Organisations working on refugee livelihoods may therefore consider providing support to educated refugees to access degree accreditation, which could help them to find work in their sectors of expertise.
The survey asked respondents about the regularity of their work. Regular work was defined as having a contract and pre-determined working hours. Results demonstrated that over half of refugees (54 percent) were working irregularly; this figure is 80 percent among those providing unskilled services. Job regularity is the highest in the textile sector; 79 percent of refugees working in textiles have regular work. As noted, only 3 percent of working refugees have a formal work permit, providing job security, minimum wage and social security. The largely informal and unreliable nature of refugee work in Turkey may hamper refugee integration into the host community. Therefore policies to encourage employers to provide work permits for refugees could increase refugee self-reliance and integration.
Refugees with irregular work earned an average of 1,058 TRY per month. Those with regular employment earned an average of 1,312 TRY per month. The textile industry provided the highest income among the sectors (1,332 TRY); this is logical, as it also has the highest proportion of refugees in regular work. Unskilled services and agriculture provided the lowest income, at 768 TRY and 756 TRY respectively.
Among the unemployed, 55 percent of men and 39 percent of women are looking for jobs. The vast majority of those not looking for jobs explained that this was due to disability (among men) and childcare responsibilities (among women). These factors must be carefully considered during programme design and development of targeting strategies.
When asked about training courses, only 1 in 10 people had previously attended a training. The trainee profile is mostly unemployed females, indicating that others in the household may be busy at work. The bulk of trainings attended were offered by the Government, and were mostly Turkish language courses. In general, Turkish language abilities remain low. Four out of five refugees had beginner level, and only 3 percent had advanced level.
The data indicates that language skills influence employability. While 50 percent of the refugees with beginner level Turkish were employed full- time, this increased to 60 percent among the refugees with intermediate or advanced Turkish. In terms of monthly income, refugees with advanced Turkish made an average of 70 TRY more per month than refugees with intermediate level of Turkish skills (1,280 TRY and 1,211 TRY respectively). Respondents with beginner level Turkish earned 1,015 TRY average monthly income.
When refugees were asked what kind of support they required to find a job, 60 percent cited Turkish language training, and almost 50 percent cited vocational training or soft skills training, such as interview skills and CV writing.
The overarching findings of the livelihoods survey indicate that successful policy and programme interventions must be evidence based and well targeted. The majority of refugees in Turkey come from less educated and less skilled backgrounds, however there is large regional variation. Livelihoods programmes must first seek to understand regional and contextual factors determining job opportunities, and align interventions accordingly. These interventions must then be targeted at the right individuals, considering previous work experience, levels of specialisation and education. It is therefore essential that the international community and the Turkish Government collaborate to share information and design interventions. This collaboration will ensure maximum use of limited resources, working toward the joint objective of encouraging refugees to become more self-reliant.