Labor and Social Security Minister Süleyman Soylu announced that the insurance premium and payments of 44,753 people working in the tourism sector in Antalya and Muğla would be covered by Turkey's employment agency İŞKUR.
Soylu, along with Culture and Tourism Minister Mahir Ünal and representatives from the tourism sector, attended a meeting organized by the Culture and Tourism Ministry. The Employment Support Package for the Tourism Sector was announced at the meeting.
The package has five items, including a Sectoral Employment Support Program, Tourism-Oriented Utility Programs, Facilitating Work Permits for Foreign Workers, Balancing and Skilled Workforce Training.
According to Soylu, the suspended three-month social security premiums of 44,753 people will be covered by İŞKUR under the condition of working nine months in 2016. Their qualifications will be improved with personal training courses from employers such as occupational training and language courses. TL 260 million ($91.8 million) of investments has been reserved for the program, which affects 44,753 people, 31,619 from Antalya and 13,134 from Muğla.
Explaining that tourists visiting Turkey would be directed by employing foreign-language speakers to the Antalya, Alanya, Trabzon, Dalaman, Milas-Bodrum, Adnan Menderes, Atatürk and Esenboğa airports as well as museums and archaeological sites connected to the Culture and Tourism Ministry, Soylu said that as part of the program, TL 544,000 of investments has been reserved for 200,000 people who will be trained for six months and later employed.
Stressing that work permits of foreigners will be facilitated in the package, Soylu said that by decreasing the minimum wage for foreign workers from three times the minimum wage to one minimum wage level, the wages that employers would pay foreign workers and the amount of premiums that they pay to the Social Security Institution (SGK) would be reduced by one-third. Therefore, in the situation where at least 10 Turkish citizens have to work for foreign workers to be employed in jobs requiring mastery and expertise, the condition of employing five Turkish citizens for each foreign worker will be lifted. This support program covers tourism and travel agencies, certificated holiday villages, tourism-animation organization firms and privately owned entertainment venues.
Soylu said that balancing would be implemented in order to increase the service quality by preventing seasonal work and employing full-time, experienced and qualified personnel. By increasing the balancing period to four months, and later up to six months, with collective labor agreements, the summer months with too much work and winter months with no work will be balanced.
Prefacing that training skilled workers is also in the package, Soylu said that the qualified workforce required for the tourism sector would be trained through occupational training courses and on-the-job training programs. Indicating that last year 3,156 people were given on-the-job training, Soylu said that they plan for 15,000 people to be trained the same way this year.
Political tensions after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane that violated its airspace near the Syrian border in November have resulted in Russian economic sanctions on Turkey. Moscow has discouraged its citizens from visiting Turkey, a popular destination for Russians due to its warm beaches. Turkey received approximately 4.5 million Russian tourists in 2015, with 75 percent spending holidays in Antalya, a top summer vacation destination.
Ünal said that the government has been trying to establish new support solutions for the problems experienced since Nov. 24. According to Ünal, Turkey has no problem in terms of recognition, and they will continue managing the process better by giving weight to lobbying activities and public relations. Regarding his previous statement about supporting local tourism to boost the sector and the latest situation about the issue, Ünal said: "Currently, we have a public-oriented project in terms of offering advantageous opportunities for domestic tourism to civil servants. However, this project has not been initiated yet, we will discuss it with the sector."
When asked about the decrease in the number of tourists compared to the previous year, Ünal said that it was misleading to give a certain rate now, and the 2016 number could be shared after the season starts.