Unemployment is one of the most pressing problems in today's world. This is especially true for Turkey where unemployment rate hovers around 10-11% even in good times. Today, since we are so accustomed to "unemployment incidence", we don't get surprised when we see one. In fact, it is everywhere. How on earth can you get surprised by it? Well, unemployment was not always that widespread. Actually, it had been virtually non-existent once.
People tend to forget what had happened in the past when things were "different". Worse still, many unconsciously assume that things were always the same. But the world is too complicated, transformative and nonlinear for this static and oblivious mindset.
This strange phenomenon of jobs with very low or zero productivity clearly shows that we need not work as much as we do – we need to relax. It's no wonder that some countries such as Sweden, Germany, Finland and New Zealand and firms such as Perpetual Guardian are experimenting with or talking about slashing working hours even further. This is not a first-world arrogance but a real necessity, because we do not and cannot stop here. The need to decrease working time has not gone away. It is with us as much as it was with us 50 years ago. So, in the age of automation and robots we need to slash working hours even further. The prophecy of John Maynard Keynes will probably not come true, but his reasoning proved quite strong when he said in 1931 that one century later it would suffice to work 15 hours a week.
What about Turkey? Turkey went mostly the other way. Working-time did not decrease as much/rapid as it should have; as productivity increased over the years. The average working time is around 46 hours (if we exclude "unpaid family workers" in the agriculture sector, it is 48 hours) right now. This is significantly high when compared to the global average of around 40 hours. And, according to Eurofund, while 6% of women and 16% of men work extreme hours (48+ hours) in EU countries, these ratios are 30% for women and 44% for men in Turkey.
And I need to underscore that, as incredible as it may sound, working more than 48 hours is almost a norm in Turkey. More to the point, Turkey ranks sixth in the list of extreme working hours after Bangladesh, Myanmar, Côte d'Ivoire, Afghanistan and Zambia in the world as of 2017. And when it comes to part-time jobs, Turkey is not in a good shape either: as the share of part-time jobs in OECD countries is around 17%, it is just 10% in Turkey. Actually, even this rate is extremely exaggerated, because most of the "unpaid family workers" in the agriculture sector in Turkey are regarded as part-time workers. When we exclude this group or the agriculture sector as a whole, then we see that part-time work is an exception with around 1-2% weight in Turkey.
Therefore, it is no wonder that unemployment rates in Turkey are quite high. Today, Turkey desperately needs to slash working hours and promote part-time jobs. Turkey needs to share employment. Only with this policy can Turkey overcome the problem of unemployment. And in the coming decades, the primary weapon against mass unemployment in the world will be the same: sharing employment.
* Associate Professor of Economics at Istanbul Medipol University
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