Turkey has a young population (over 40% of the population is under 25) and a very large workforce. It also has an unemployment rate of over 11%% – and 23% youth unemployment.
These figures are getting worse. There is an economic crisis. Factories are closing and, not surprisingly, the government is keen to preserve jobs for local people.
Add to this the fact that a foreign worker can cost up to five times the amount that would be paid to an equivalent Turkish worker and it’s easy to understand why finding a job in Turkey is not always the easiest thing for a foreigner to do.
Yet jobs are available. Turkey has a shortage of workers in certain key fields and actively encourages foreigners to fill those posts.
In particular, there are some high-tech posts where there is a local shortage of workers and many foreign-owned companies find they need to have some foreign employees to act as a bridge to the local, Turkish work force.
Video guide to employment in Turkey
You can get a quick overview of working for others in Turkey by watching this video interview (below) with Turkish lawyer Başak Yıldız Orkun. Learn more by scrolling down and reading the guide she has written with us.
The job market in Turkey
There are over 30 million Turks in the local Turkish workforce and well over a million more working overseas.
The Turkish economy has, over the last 20 years, become ever more dominated by the private sector. It is led by industry and, increasingly, the service sector – which now accounts for nearly 50% of all employment.
Industry is changing rapidly. Fewer Turks are now employed making clothes and many more making trucks and cars, electronics and other more sophisticated products. About 25% of Turks still work in agriculture. They are concentrated in the Eastern part of the country.
For the foreigner seeking work in Turkey, the main opportunities lie in the service sector and the more high-tech industries.
Marriage to a Turkish person
If you are married to a Turk, when it comes to employment you will enjoy all the same legal rights and benefits that a Turkish national enjoys. For many this is a very pleasurable way of getting around the restrictions on employment in Turkey.
Of course, in the real world it might not make it much easier to find an ‘ordinary’ job: particularly if you don’t speak fluent Turkish.
Working in Turkey as a foreigner
Turkey granted 73,584 work permits to foreigners in 2016 – a 14% increase on 2015. The acceptance rate on applications for work permits was 85%.
First, you need to make a realistic appraisal of what you have to offer. See our Guide to Finding a Job in Turkey.
Seasonal work for foreigners in Turkey
The main opportunity for seasonal work in Turkey is in the tourism industry, which contributed US$31.5billion (6.2%) to Turkey’s GDP in 2015.
Many tourist businesses, large and small, lack the language skills to service the needs of international visitors and need international input to help them tailor their product to the specific needs of their various foreign customers.
Most seasonal workers in the tourist industry are appointed for two or three months, to cover the main tourist season from the end of June to September.
Many of these jobs – an increasing number and now, probably, 80% or more – are ‘official’ jobs. In other words, the person employed has been employed following the usual process of an application for a work permit. There are still some jobs in this sector where people work ‘below the radar’. They work, usually in smaller establishments, completely unregistered and illegally. They have no work permit or employment contract. They have few legal rights.
Many jobs in the tourist sector are at one and a half or two times the minimum wage. As of January 2017, minimum wage stood at TRY1,777.50 (€479.47) gross per month. This contrasts, for example, with €684 in Greece and €1,498 in Germany. Some employees in the tourist sector – particularly those with very good language skills (including Turkish) and previous experience can earn significantly more.
If you’re seeking employment in the tourist industry, you need to start looking early. If you’re going to travel to Turkey to look for work (rather than applying to large tour operators based in your own country) you probably need to be in Turkey no later than April, with a view to starting work in May or June. You would, of course, travel as a tourist. If you succeed in finding a job in this way, you will have to return to your own country to apply for your work permit.
Temporary work for foreigners in Turkey
There is a difference between seasonal work and temporary work. Temporary work can arise at any point during the year.
Two areas where there is often demand for temporary employment are training positions relating to the opening of hotels and other tourist establishments and teaching foreign languages. See our Guide to Teaching English in Turkey.
Full-time employment for foreigners in Turkey
The basic rules
The basic rules regulating the employment of foreigners in Turkey are:
- All employment requires a work permit. The employer obtains the permit. The permit authorises the foreigner to undertake only that employment and only for that employer. It does not permit the foreigner to go and work elsewhere or in some other role. If you want to change employers or job, you need to obtain a fresh work permit
- The employer has to justify why he needs a work permit – for example, he might need an English receptionist because 70% of his clients are English
- The employer must find a person and then apply for a permit for that person
- If the potential employee is already in Turkey, they must have a valid residency permit in order to apply for a work permit whilst they’re still in the country. If they don’t, they must go to the Turkish consulate in their own country to apply
- If their application is initially accepted, they’ll receive a reference number. They should send that number to the employer. The employer does everything else (see our Guide to Social Security in Turkey).