“This is where the action will be, not in Europe”

Turks all long to move to Europe. Isn’t it? Well, not the more highly educated Turks. Turkey offers them enough opportunities!

Exactly one week after finishing his studies, he found a job. Majoring in environmental technology, Kaan Alpaslan (24) modestly says he ‘was lucky’, but there is more. Not only the company that hired him apparently sees a future for him, so he has everything going for him to make a good career in Turkey. Kaan studied at an excellent university, he lives in Istanbul and speaks good German and English. Young people like him don’t have to be concerned about their future for one second. Kaan: “I always laugh a bit when I hear that many Europeans think it’s every Turk’s dream to live in Europe. Why would I want to go to Europe?”
The Turkish economy is growing, over the last couple of years at an average of 5 to 6 percent a year. Foreign investment is growing, and in Istanbul and also (but less so) in Ankara there’s enough jobs for higher educated Turks. There are no exact numbers, because the statistics cover all universities, and the different academic levels (and consequently the chance of finding a job) between Turkish universities is enormous. But someone with a degree from a good university can usually find a job before graduation.

Going abroad is temporary 

Yasemin Sari, an energetic student of 23 who carries her laptop around Istanbul on her way to university, work, or a date with friends, studies philosophy. Not really a field of study that guarantees a job, is it? “Oh yes it is”, she says. “No problem.” If you graduate from her university, Bosporus University, commercial companies want you, whether you are a philosopher or a technician. Yasemin already had part time jobs that look good on her CV: she worked in marketing and for an IT company, and now she has a part time media job. “But I don’t want to work in the private sector”, she says. “I want an academic career. First a promotion in the United States, then more steps up here in Turkey. I have already studied in Germany for one year. Going abroad is temporary, I’m sure I will always return to Turkey.

Turkey, and especially Istanbul, is alive, says Yasemin. The country is developing and she enjoys being part of that. “In Europe, everything is more arranged, especially in Germany”, she says. “Well, of course, it’s nice that the bus comes on time, but I missed the dynamic atmosphere of Istanbul.” Later, when she is asked whether she also wants to live in Turkey to make a contribution to the development of her country, she gets a bit irritated. “Why would I need an extra reason to just want to be in Turkey? It has nothing to do with idealism. Europe just has nothing to offer me that I cannot also find in my own country.”

The EU is rather closed

Refik Erzan, economy professor at Bosporus University, estimated that by 2030 at the most between 1 and 6 percent of Turks will migrate to Europe. “At least, when migration becomes free some time within a decade”, he adds – and that change is minimal. “Going to Europe is not beneficial now”, says Erzan. “And young Turks with a good education know that. They may want to go to Europe to study or to work for a short time, but really settling down in Europe is not advantageous. They have access to all modern media and know all about the social problems and the troubles faced by immigrants in Europe. Also, the European economy isn’t growing as fast as the Turkish one, and the labour market is not accessable to people from outside the EU. The EU is rather closed.”

Kaan Alpaslan also has professional reasons to work in his own country as an environmental engineer: “In Europe, all sorts of environmental technology is rather advanced and developed, whereas in Turkey it still needs more development. For me, that’s a much bigger challenge then to work in a place where everything is already done. The German company I work fordidn’t open a branch here without a good reason: this is where the action will be in the years ahead, not in Europe.

(published in daily newspaper De Pers)

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