ISTANBUL, June 11 (Xinhua) -- Unemployment in Turkey has increased to its highest level since July last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with the young generation being most affected, according to official data published on Thursday.
The data by the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat) showed the unemployment rate reached 13.9 percent in April, up 0.9 percentage points from the previous month and the number of the unemployed increased to 4.5 million.
Youth unemployment for people aged between 15 and 24 increased to 25.6 percent in the same month, one of the highest in European nations.
In an attempt to curb the increase in unemployment, the government has barred companies from laying off workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. But businesses responded by the simple expedient of placing employees on unpaid leave.
After all, the ban itself is due to expire at the end of this month, and economists expect a further rise in unemployment in the months to come.
"Even though the ban on dismissal limited the increase in rates, there was an expansion compared to the previous month and the same period of the previous year," Enver Erkan, chief economist at Istanbul-based Tera Securities, told Xinhua.
"After the end of employment support, we may see further increases in unemployment rates," he said.
The search for jobs is significantly painful for younger generations, especially during the COVID-19 lockdowns when recruitment processes froze and young people could not join internship programs.
Gokhan Turesen, 23, has a degree in economics from a university in the capital Ankara, but he has failed to secure a job for a full year now.
"The search for a job has affected my mental health. I have to continue living with my parents in Ankara for an unforeseeable period or accomplish my military service if I don't find a position soon," he told Xinhua.
"The jobs I managed to find in the past year offered miserable wages, as employers were trying to exploit the young during the pandemic," he deplored.
Yesim Ergenc, 22, has been trying to find a healthcare position for more than six months. She also expressed her disappointment and frustration after numerous fruitless applications.
"I have been offered ridiculous salaries for long working hours and even jobs without social security protection. The pandemic made things worse for us," she lamented.
"People also are reluctant to hire because they probably don't know what to expect in the near future because of the poor state of the economy," Ergenc noted.
Turkey's economy has recorded a strong growth of seven percent in the first quarter of 2021. However, the nation is still battling double-digit inflation and a weakening currency, which has lost more than half its value since 2018.