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This guide is about getting a job in Turkey. It looks at the job market, the jobs available, where to seek vacancies, and the types of work open to foreigners.
Finding a job in Turkey can be difficult. In most cases, Turkey doesn’t need foreign nationals to fill a labour shortage. It has a young population (over 40% of the population is under 25) and a very large workforce. It also has an unemployment rate of 9.8% - and 23% for youth.
These figures are getting worse. There is a government 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.
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 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.
There are over 30million Turks in the local Turkish workforce and well over a million more working overseas.
For the foreigner seeking work in Turkey, the main opportunities lie in the service sector and the more high-tech industries.
Turkey granted 73,584 work permits to foreigners in 2016 – a 14% increase on 2016. The acceptance rate on applications was 85%.
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.
There are many opportunities to work in the tourism sector as many businesses, large and small, lack the language skills to service the needs of international tourists and need international input to help them tailor their product to the specific needs of their various international visitors.
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.
Many jobs in the tourist sector are at minimum wage. As of January 2017, this is TRY1,777.50 (€479.47) per month. This contrasts, for example, with €684 in Greece or €1,498 in Germany.
However, this is not always so. 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.
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 teachers of foreign languages. See our Guide to Teaching English in Turkey.
The basic rules regulating the employment of foreigners in Turkey are:
All employment requires a work permit. The employer obtains the permit. It authorises the foreigner to undertake that employment for that employer and does not permit the foreigner to go and work elsewhere or in some other role. If you want to change employers or jobs 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 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 Turkey. If they don’t, they must go to the consulate in their own country to apply.
If their application is initially accepted they’ll get a reference number. They should send that number to employer. The employer does everything else (see our Guide to Employment Law in Turkey).
Because of the challenges associated with finding work in Turkey, it’s well worth spending some time working out exactly what skills you have to offer, how you can improve them and how you can best take advantage of them.
In many countries, this leads people to consider whether their skills make them better suited to working an employer or to being self-employed – i.e. running their own business. This is not normally the case in Turkey, where obtaining a visa to work as an independent self-employed person can be very difficult. See our Guide to Self Employment in Turkey. If you relish running your own business you will, therefore, usually be forced to consider setting up a proper Turkish business rather than simply being self-employed. See our Guide to Starting a Business in Turkey.
Many people coming to Turkey will already have a well-defined set of job skills and, of course, many will have been invited to work in Turkey precisely because of this. If you’re not in this position, I suggest that you sit down and go through the process.
This may lead you to conclude that there is little chance of being able to work in Turkey within your normal field of activity and that you will, therefore, have to do something else. Some people relish the idea of coming to Turkey to start a new life that will take them in a completely different direction from what they’d been doing before, but others will think that this adds one level of complexity too many to what is already a challenging relocation project.
What formal qualifications do you possess and will they be accepted in Turkey?
If you’re engaged in some professional activity (doctor, engineer etc.) you will probably find that your professional association ‘back home’ will have a database showing the requirements of Turkey and other countries when it comes to people wanting to work in your area of expertise.
If your qualifications are going to be of direct use, you will need to validate them and have them translated. The process for doing this varies from country to country and, once again, your professional association should be able to help. However, this is seldom easy.
In your own country, there is likely to be a government agency dealing with the recognition of qualifications from that country in other parts of the world. For example, in the US it is the Department of Education. In the UK it is the UK National Recognition Information Centre (NARIC).
What are your core skills?
‘Core skills’ means different things in different places but, probably, would always include communication skills, numeracy, IT skills, problem solving, working with others and language skills. Others might add the ability to manage yourself and the ability to learn and develop.
It is easier to examine your core skills in an objective way if you do this with an honest and trusted friend, colleague, or partner.
You will often find that the core skills that you have developed whilst working in (say) a food factory can be directly applicable to other jobs where there are employment opportunities in Turkey.
Once you’ve established your core skills, it is well worthwhile talking to an Turkish employment agency (e.g. kariyer) to see whether they offer any scope for employment in Turkey. A preliminary discussion is usually free.
When it comes to getting a job in Turkey, many people find that the key to success is taking their core skills and improving them or developing them in a particular direction to provide something specifically in-demand in Turkey. For example, a person who has worked successfully as a car mechanic in (say) Germany is likely to have pretty much all the skills required to work as an aircraft mechanic in Turkey. There are no job opportunities in Turkey for car mechanics, but there are some for aircraft mechanics. However, in order to show his suitability for a job as an aircraft mechanic, he is likely to have to do some supplemental training in Germany.
It is, hardly surprisingly, a requirement of most jobs that you should be able to speak adequate Turkish. However, this is not always the case. For example, qualified teachers of English as a second language do not need to have any Turkish language skills - although it is helpful if they do.
You will need a very limited amount of Turkish if you are going to seek work as a seasonal worker in the tourism industry.
There are a number of ways of finding a job in Turkey - bearing in mind, of course, the need for you to obtain a work permit.
Alternatively, there are more informal arrangements. Informal local advertisements appear on people’s premises and a lot of importance is attached to personal contacts.
Both people seeking employment and employers seeking employees advertise in the local press.
Because of this, many people will travel to Turkey to look for work. That’s also on the basis that it is much easier to persuade someone to give you a job if you've met them face-to-face. If you do this - and it's not illegal to come as a tourist for this purpose - please remember that you will have to go home whilst the employer completes your application for a work permit and that there is no guarantee that the application will be successful.
Whilst you’re in Turkey you might think about putting an advert in the local press. All of the main papers have a ‘jobs wanted’ section. You will need to think carefully about the sort of person who is going to be looking for somebody with your skills and which newspaper they’re likely to read.
Advertising for a job works because many employers are impressed by people who show initiative and correspondingly depressed by the dozens of inappropriate applications they receive from employment agencies.
Apart from the requirement to have a work permit, there are other restrictions on the ability of foreigners to work in Turkey. For example, they cannot work as lawyers or in the medical professions. Nor can they work in certain industries that are considered government monopolies.
When you're applying for a job in Turkey it is seldom possible simply to turn up at the place of employment and ask for a job. This may be possible in the case of work as a waiter or bartender; but for anything more sophisticated than this you will need to make a proper application in writing.
If you are applying for a job as a waiter or bartender, remember that the employer wants to employ you (a foreigner) because of your ability to engage with and draw in foreign visitors. It will be a huge advantage if you speak some Turkish but an even greater advantage if you are good looking and energetic. It's probably improper to say this, but attractive girls have a huge advantage.
A formal job application is made up of two parts. The first is a covering letter, the second a CV (résumé).
This is, these days, almost always sent by email but you could deliver an application pack directly to potential employers’ premises.
Unlike in many countries, the CV does not need to be in any particular format.
It must contain your contact details, including a mobile telephone number.
It should set out your relevant experience and qualifications.
It should offer the name and contact details of two references.
Again, it should, if possible, be in Turkish. If you do not speak Turkish, consider having it translated and sending the translation along with the original English, French, German etc. document.
It is usual for the person applying for the job to follow up the application after two or three days to see whether it has been successful rather than to rely upon the potential employer to get back to them with a response. Even amongst employers who would have replied to your CV, such perseverance creates a good impression.
If you’re offered an interview, it is common for the employer to cover the expenses of you attending the interview – especially if you’re travelling a long way such as from, say, Russia or the US.
It’s quite common for you have to attend at least two interviews; the first with a relatively junior person and the others with the decision-maker.
When attending an interview, be on time and dress formally. It is always better to be overdressed than underdressed.
A normal working week is 45 hours.
Working hours, holidays and overtime vary quite a lot depending on the nature of the business in which you are working and where it is located. See our Guide to Employment Law in Turkey.
If you’re working in the tourist industry, do not expect to be able to take holidays during the normal holiday season. On the contrary, you can expect to be working up to seven days per week during these times.
Unless you work for a major Western company, you should not expect to be given time off for the normal Western holidays such as Christmas.
There are four main trade unions in Turkey:
In some cases, a trade union might have the legal right to negotiate terms and conditions of employment on your behalf but, in order to do this, they must represent at least 10% of all Turkish employees in that particular field.
In some industries, striking is prohibited. These include education, healthcare and hospitals, defense and many public utilities.
If you want to work in Turkey there are options, but you may find yourself going in a different direction to the one you'd planned. Learning the language will put you head and shoulder above many other foreign applicants, and making some friends in the city you want to work in will go a long way.
|Turkey Country Guide
Essential facts and figures about Turkey
|Employment Law in Turkey
Rights and responsibilities of employers and employees
I hope you have found this guide useful. If you need any further help, please contact me.Başak Yıldız Orkun 21 June 2017
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