Country Situation Turkey

Current national situation of young people having disadvantaged background

Turkey is a country with a relatively young population. By the end of 2019 the total population of Turkey is 83 million 154 thousand 997 people based on the results of Address Based Population Registration System (ABPRS). The young population in the 15-24 age group is 12 million 955 thousand 672 people. The young population constitutes 15.6% of the total population.  Before talking about young people’s disadvantageous situation in Turkey, which has about 13 million young people, in order to distinguish between disadvantaged groups and individuals, first of all, it is necessary to look at the word meaning of the disadvantage and the reasons leading to the disadvantage. There is no generally accepted definition regarding the concept of disadvantage. Economically, by directly linking the concept of social disadvantage to the economy, they usually deal with disadvantaged individuals in terms of economic insufficiency. This situation varies from country to country depending on the degree of difficulties they face in the employment market. From a legal point of view, they express social disadvantage in terms of the protection of rights and interests and state that all segments that fall into the disadvantaged category must be secured by law. According to sociology, they generally addressed the disadvantage around low income, low welfare and low competition. There are also studies that define the disadvantaged concept as “not having access to the necessary tools to be self-sufficient”. According to this view, disadvantaged people do not have the possibilities of the majority of the society in areas such as health, education, information, employment, and social support. When we evaluate “disadvantage” from economic, cultural, sociological, political, environmental and geographical points of view, we can say that most young people in Turkey are disadvantaged in at least one or more areas.

According to the findings of a study conducted in Turkey, the main problem that disadvantaged youth face is the lack of trust in the society. Other problems faced by these young people are listed as “deficiencies in the education system, *financial difficulties, *unemployment and *few social opportunities in the cities where they live”.

Education: It is expected that education will be everywhere and for all, and equal opportunity will be provided, meaning that education conditions will be improved for young people with all kinds of disabilities, youth-friendly physical environments will be increased, and school / University opportunities will be increased.

Family Relations: The close relationship they have with their families, economic and emotional dependence for young people is one of the most important reasons that prevent them from making decisions freely in their daily lives. Especially when families are raising their children, they give efforts to keep them away from politics and this prevent young people from participating in collective actions and de-politicize them. On the other hand, young people receive financial support from their families for their livelihood, even if they work for short periods, while studying. In addition to 3 high commitments to the family financially, intense emotional relationships with the family affect the young people’s decisions about their own lives.

Financial Impossibilities: The most important of the financial impossibilities is the increase in dependency on the family due to the insufficient state scholarships and the low return of part-time jobs. In addition to high financial commitment to the family, intense emotional relationships with the family affect the young people’s decisions about their own lives. Unemployment, on the other hand, affects the adherence of the youth to the family in post-university period.

Unemployment: Economic crises experienced worldwide in recent years have affected adolescents especially and caused youth unemployment to increase significantly. According to 2017 TUIK data, unemployment rate of 15-24 age group youth is 24’5 percent. The female and male ratios of unemployment statistics also differ. One out of every three young women is neither working nor receiving education; therefore, the participation rate of young women in the labour force is lower than that of men.

Non-youth-friendly cities: Whether the city is a young friend city and whether it provides young people with various social opportunities affect their youthfulness. The more public places where young people can spend time, the more comfortable they are. Young people dream of a city that has social activities, where they can easily go out, and where they can spend time, such as a library, cafe, and youth centre. In this sense, it turns out that young people who are students in big cities are more satisfied than those in small cities.

Main challenges of youth workers who work with youngsters having disadvantaged background in their daily implementation

Combating rising unemployment rates, especially for young people, has become a major problem for countries in Europe, also in Turkey. Many young people leave their schools early, which poses a high risk of unemployment and social marginalization. The same risk threatens a large number of disadvantaged young people who are not qualified. The economic anxiety of these young people causes difficulties for youth workers to reach them and involve them in their activities. Because the main concern of disadvantaged young people is not finding entrepreneurship, youth activities or visiting another country, but finding a job and gaining economic freedom as soon as possible.

In line with the negative events in our country – rising inflation rates, external borrowing, deficiencies and inadequacies in the education system, increasing unemployment rates, the decision of qualified young people to live in other countries, the absence of employment, no meaning of graduation, the idea that all jobs are carried out through acquaintances- leads to despair and makes youth look pessimistic about the future. These difficulties make it difficult for youth workers to show young people that another future is possible.

In Turkey, there are several reasons why young people cannot participate actively in centres, associations or organizations engaged in self-development activities. One of them is family structure. Some families think that if their children participate in the activities of such an institution, they will have a political problem and keep their children there for different purposes (such as organizing, brainwashing, nationalist, communist, anarchist upbringing). In addition to this, the fact that young people do not want to investigate and aims to have ‘the ready one’ is also one of the difficulties experienced by youth workers. Young people see this voluntary situation as a chore.

Another challenge is that the association, organization or centre does not have sufficient facilities in each activity to be carried out. These are physical competence, namely the absence or inadequate places to perform activities. Young people who have disadvantages should also be considered while making physical (construction works) plans. Therefore, the location of the centre, its interior arrangement, etc. are important issues. Consideration should be given to whether the matters are suitable for disabled citizens and the possibilities for the disadvantaged young people. Otherwise, it will be impossible for the youth worker to manage this process. The fact that youth workers needs to get support in order to solve the problems such as finding place / material / resources and that such procedures. Because they are very troublesome and these lead to delay in the activities of youth workers and disruption of their plans.

To work with young people with different characteristics mentioned above, the youth worker must be equipped and open to development. At this point, he should have the opportunity to access continuing education in the youth field. Youth studies are the studies that are conducted outside of formal education and using non-formal learning methods. At this point, youth workers should have the ability to create materials and resources. It has difficulties in accessing resources such as materials, equipment and materials in its specific activity. If there is a project implemented under a grant program, the youth worker has easy access to them. However, if the resource will be covered by the corporate budget of NGOs and organizations, the access to materials and equipment becomes very difficult. Because NGOs have a shortage of resources. Local administrations and institutions allocate limited budgets.

In addition, youth workers face the following challenges in their daily practice:

  • The fact that young people cannot be reached easily to the activity area (free transportation)
  • Not reaching each region equally (Opportunity inequality)
  • Free food, materials and resources
  • Old technologies
  • Inadequate support staff
  • Inadequacies in physical environments (warming, light, suitability of space for effectiveness, etc.)

Current tools and methodology that youth workers and social workers use by working with disadvantaged youngsters to promote their integration

Non-governmental organizations working in the field of youth have an important responsibility for young people to take an active role in issues that concern them, to adopt a rights-based approach, in efforts to develop the society positively, and to strengthen youth and develop capacity. In this context, it is necessary to provide holistic and ongoing support for the strengthening of youth working organizations and especially youth workers. In our country, the European Commission Delegation to Turkey and Turkish National Agency provides support to the youth workers working with young disadvantaged backgrounds. With the help of support programmes and civil society activities, the perception of young people is changing in Turkey from passive individuals who are participating, adapting and learning to active individuals who are participating, taking initiative, experiencing. The changes in the demands of new generations and the way they meet these demands has formed a basis for the dynamic structure of youth work.

Europe needs more harmonious and inclusive societies that allow citizens to play an active role in democratic life. Youth participation; promoting common European values, strengthening social integration, increasing intercultural understanding, a sense of commitment to a community and preventing violent radicalization. In this context, Erasmus+ Program is also an effective tool for encouraging the inclusion of individuals from disadvantaged groups.

In addition to these, well-established associations and foundations in our country use some instruments to support disadvantaged young people. There are both the projects they carry out and the support they give to those who want to work in the youth field.

Another issue that needs to be emphasized is the similarity of the youth worker, who is not defined as a profession group in our country, with the concept of youth leader known as a profession. Youth leaders is a qualification which is recognized in Turkey, and in fact the youth workers have common features in terms of responsibilities of youth leaders in terms of their task. However, there are conditions to be a youth leader in qualifications. Young people who meet the specified conditions take the proficiency exam, and if they are successful, they are assigned to a youth centre by the Ministry by obtaining a youth leader certificate. In this system, the youth leader has limitations in place, space and time. In these constraints, it basically distinguishes the youth leader from the youth worker.

The most comprehensive and free service offered for disadvantaged youth in our country are youth centres operating under the Ministry of Youth and Sports. Youth centres receive intense applications and membership and their numbers are increasing every year. Youth centers are centers that offer young people sports courses, cultural trips and free course opportunities that will help them in their school life. There is no requirement to become a member of the Youth Center and young people can benefit from all opportunities free of charge. With the establishment of the Ministry of Youth and Sports in 2011, there has been a leap forward in the opportunities offered to young people. The number of youth centers, which was 16 in 2011, increased to 330 in 2020, thus reaching a large number of young people. The number of youth center members, which was around 8 thousand in 2011, is around 3 million today. In the youth centres, which continue their activities with a content formed by blending scientific, spiritual, aesthetic and traditional values, there are workshops on social sciences, personal development, religious sciences, innovation, values, language education, healthy life and sports and fine arts.

Brief description of Good Practices on youth work aimed at youngsters having disadvantaged background in the country

GençBank” Project: (National Project) GençBank is a youth work model coordinated by the Community Volunteers Foundation since 2011 and hosted by local institutions. The project, which is part of the international “YouthBank Network” and supported by the C.S Mott Foundation; is a youth grant program that aims to empower young people, increase their participation in local life, support their personal development and contribute positively to where they live. This project is open to all young people aged 15-25, regardless of religion, language, race and gender. In line with the principles of Respect for Differences, Transparency and Accountability, Local Participation, Teamwork, Lifelong Learning and Entrepreneurship, This project is still ongoing, led by young people and guided by adults.

Institutions such as local youth NGOs, youth centers, youth work units of municipalities and district governorships are partners of the project in their local home. The fact that local dynamics work together for young people is one of the most important advantages of the project.  Between February 2016 and April 2017, 168 local grant programs were hosted by 13 local institutions and supported 96 project ideas of their peers; While 420 young people received grant projects and 3.377 young people directly benefited from these projects.

With the GençBank Program, 80 youth grant programs were hosted by 9 local institutions between May 2017 and April 2018, supporting 30 of their peers’ project ideas. While 240 young people received grants and realized their project ideas, 4,342 people directly benefited from these projects. These local projects; It took place in many different themes such as children’s rights, rights of disabled people, women’s rights, environment, recycling, school renewal, thematic education, art and youth.

Youth Factory: (Regional Project) Abdullah Gul University (AGU) is the coordinator of the project. AGU Youth Factory helps young people to make a positive contribution to society and aims to help them make a difference by providing the knowledge, training, support and guidance. AGU is a first in Turkey Youth Factory, which is a structure focused on learning operating in the national and international dimensions. Youth factory is a youth-oriented center with services such as educating young people, giving them skills about life, adding international vision, encourages young people to participate in social life, providing and enjoying learning and producing together.

AGU Youth Factory carries out these activities for young people:

  • Strategic Collaborations with more than 50 countries and 200 institutions
  • Challenges in International Youth Employment and Opportunities Symposium (ISYEC)
  • Fundraising for Civil Society Organizations in collaboration with Robert Bosch
  • Support to European Voluntary Service accreditation processes
  • Youth information with Eurodesk
  • “Social Entrepreneurship in Universities” with TOG (Community Volunteers Foundation)
  • Conferences that inspire youth with AGU Talks
  • Opportunity to meet with successful business person, mentorship and internship with APCO
  • “Career Talks with Future Leaders” with AMCHAM
  • Representation of our country among 33 different countries in the “IdeasLab” event
  • Member of the DYPALL Network Project executive committee titled “Youth participation in local government”
  • “Youth Workers Mobility” Erasmus + project
  • Erasmus + Internship Consortium

The youth factory became the national partner of the GençBank project in this process. By establishing the GençBank center in the youth factory, it started to provide services not only for AGU youth, but also for youth in Kayseri (the city). Traditionally held the International Youth Employment Challenges and Opportunities Symposium every year. AGU Talks organizes an interview program open to all segments of the society, especially Kayseri (a city in Turkey). Career Talks: Future Leaders and Career Talks organized by AGU Youth Factory bring together leading names of culture, art, sports, education and business world with students. It provides a great opportunity for young people with its inclusion, the policy of including every young person, learner-oriented programs and free training.