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Turkey in a Week, November 19

This week’s news on current economic distress were mostly based on the August unemployment rate officially announced by the Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK) on November 15. The data show that 11.1 per cent of the labor force is currently unemployed, a figure adding to a rising trend from 9.7 per cent for May and 10.2 and 10.8 for June and July respectively. The August rate is the highest level for the last 18 months. The number of unemployed has risen by an additional 266 thousand from August 2017 reaching a total of 3 million and 670 thousand. The rise in the rate is a 0.5 points in percentage. The decomposition of the rate presents a 13.2 per cent unemployment rate in the non-agricultural sectors as well as a 0.2 point rise in youth unemployment (15 to 24 years old) amounting to a total of alarming 20.8 per cent. Those employed are distributed by 19.4 per cent in agriculture, 19.5 per cent in industry, 7.1 per cent in construction and 54 per cent in services. The labor force participation rate on the other hand shows an annual increase of 0.6 points reaching to 54.3 per cent in total. Men and women participation rates stays approximately stable at 74.1 and 34.9 per cent respectively.

The numbers show that although the public employment in the third quarter of 2018 has increased by 20.2 per cent compared to the third quarter of 2017, the overall unemployment rate adjusted for seasonal effects has reached 11.2 per cent.

On the other hand, a comprehensive report by the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey (DİSK) argues that the actual rate of unemployment is found as high as 18 per cent when the official data creation process is replaced by a more realistic survey process.

Many economists point to the alarming rate of unemployment and predict a still higher trend for the coming months as the economic crisis gets heavier.

A related development concerns the industrial production index which also shows a grim trend. The annual fall in the index scored a 2.7 high as compared to the previous year. The most hit sector seems to be the manufacturing industry with a fall of 3.2 per cent in production. This also added to the concerns regarding the length and extent of the ongoing recession.

On the 16th of November, the İstanbul police’s counter-terrorism unit has raided the Anadolu Kültür, a art related foundation, founded and presided by Osman Kavala, a businessperson who had been detained in October last year and has been still in prison. Kavala was charged with allegations regarding supporting and coordinating the Gezi Park protests of 2013 that had turned into a country wide anti-government movement, however yet to see trial.

With the police raid, 13 were detained, among which were the dean of the Law School of İstanbul Bilgi University, Prof.Dr. Turgut Tarhanlı, a well known movie producer and intellectual, Çiğdem Mater and Prof.Dr. Betül Tanbay of Department of Mathematics of Boğaziçi University. The government, the police and the prosecutors, who had already internationally been under critique and scrutiny for their poor performance regarding freedom of speech and unjust treatment of university professors and intellectuals met considerable reaction from national and international circles.

The next day 12 of the 13 detained were released under the condition banning them to leave the country as well as judicial control and one,  Yiğit Aksakoğlu was arrested. The charges were same with those of Kavala, organizing and coordinating the Gezi Park protests in order to topple and/or totally or partially disrupt the functioning of the government. These developments compounded the alarming concerns regarding the academic freedoms, freedom of speech and the intellectual life in Turkey in general.

The JDP had brought in a bill to the parliament, that would prevent medical doctors who had been discharged from service by the state of emergency statutory decrees, at hospitals and institutions attached to the official Social Security Institution (SGK). However this week, with the pressure from the opposition and the public the bill was changed so that the doctors will be able to work at the concerned hospitals. The medical doctors having a special status regarding their occupation had this chance. Still, there are a staggering number of people who had been similarly discharged from public service and can not find employment, including academics, teachers and so on.

The leader of the central right GP (İyi Party), Meral Akşener has announced that they were negotiating with the social democratic RPP for alliance in the coming local elections regarding nine metropolitan municipalities.

After the alliance between the far right NAP and the Islamic JDP was shattered due to growing tensions and disputes between the two, the opposition seems to grab the chance to cooperate within certain areas. The left wing PDP has also been for some time signaling support for a loose opposition front against the alliance between the ruling JDP and the NAP.

US President Donald Trump said that he declined to listen to recording of ‘vicious’ Khasshoggi killing, proving that the Turkish authorities had shared the tapes with the US. On Tuesday, November 20 the president will be presented the intelligence report regarding the Khashoggi case and the world is awaiting the US response.

The Saudi authorities, rather ambiguously mentioned a local Turkish collaborator. President Erdoğan deeply interested in the case due to Turkey’s unusual involvement in the Middle East as well as US-Turkey relations, demanded Saudis to announce the identity of the so called collaborator.

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