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Cablegate: Turkish Youth: Demographics and Identity

VZCZCXRO5923
RR RUEHAG RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHLZ
DE RUEHAK #3651/01 1721107
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 211107Z JUN 06
FM AMEMBASSY ANKARA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6736
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES
RUCNNAF/NORTH AF NEA AND SOUTH ASIAN COLLECTIVE
RUEHDA/AMCONSUL ADANA 0893
RUEHIT/AMCONSUL ISTANBUL 0837
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ANKARA 003651

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV ECON SCUL SOCI TU
SUBJECT: TURKISH YOUTH: DEMOGRAPHICS AND IDENTITY


ANKARA 00003651 001.2 OF 002


THIS IS THE FIRST IN A SERIES OF THREE CABLES ABOUT TURKISH
YOUTH COMPILED BY FIRST- AND SECOND-TOUR OFFICERS THROUGHOUT
MISSION TURKEY.

1. (SBU) Summary: Nearly three-quarters of Turkey's
population is under the age of 35. To better understand this
increasingly important cohort, Mission Turkey's first- and
second-tour officers conducted several months of outreach,
meeting with young people throughout the country and
discussing their attitudes on a wealth of topics. This cable
introduces the series with a demographic overview of the
group. Among the most striking findings in the data were the
high rates of youth unemployment and extremely low rates of
high school and university enrollment in the east and
southeastern provinces. The two subsequent cables will
detail what we learned about youth attitudes toward politics,
religion, economics, the United States, and Turkey's role in
the world. End summary.

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-------------------
POPULATION OVERVIEW
-------------------

2. (SBU) According to Turkish Policy Quarterly, nearly 75
percent of Turkey's population is under the age of 35. The
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) reports that 47
percent of the population is under the age of 24, and the
U.S. Library of Congress puts the under-14 segment of the
population at 26 percent. Like the country's population
overall, the youth population is concentrated in Istanbul,
Ankara, and Izmir, as well as in Turkey's many smaller
cities. In most of the country, birth rates have come down
over the past 20 years. In the east and southeast, however,
anecdotal evidence suggests that families continue to have
high birth rates, with up to ten children. In the
southeastern provinces of Sanliurfa and Diyarbakir, for
example, the percentage of the population under age 35 is
closer to 80 percent. Their absorption into the economy
poses a major economic, social, and political challenge.

---------
EDUCATION
---------

3. (U) The Turkish State Institute of Statistics (TUIK)
reports that 60.9 percent of young people attend high school.
According to TUIK statistics, of the students who took the
highly competitive university entrance exam in 2002, 28.6
percent passed. Overall, 19 percent of Turkish youth attend
a four-year university, and an additional nine percent take
part in distance learning. In the eastern and southeastern
provinces, these numbers are dramatically lower, with only
three percent of young people attending a four-year
university and five percent taking part in distance learning.
Because of economic conditions, many families in the eastern
and southeastern provinces do not have the resources to send
their children to secondary school or to specialized schools
(dershanes) that prepare them for the university entrance
exam.

------------
UNEMPLOYMENT
------------

4. (SBU) A 2006 World Bank Labor Market Study reported that
unemployment is extremely high among educated young people in
Turkey. For university graduates age 20-24, the unemployment
rate is 39 percent. For 25-to-29-year-olds with a university
degree, the rate is 15 percent. Overall, the unemployment
rate for males aged 15-34 is 21.6 percent, and 22.6 percent
for females. Turkish youth told us that underemployment is
also a huge problem for them. TUIK reports that
underemployment for youth age 15-24 is four percent, on top
of the reported unemployment rate. Widespread anecdotal
evidence suggests that this far underestimates the extent of
the problem. Many young people are identified as "employed,"
when in fact they work for very low wages, or no wages at
all, in family businesses.

-------------------
VALUES AND IDENTITY
-------------------

5. (SBU) Faruk Demir, president of Ankara-based think tank
Gelecek which reports on trends in youth identity and values,
told us that three values are of increasing importance to the
young population: social nationalism, nationalist Islam, and

ANKARA 00003651 002.2 OF 002


Islamism. He explained that social nationalism represents
anger or resentment toward other nations and emphasizes
Turkey's power in the region. Nationalist Islam, Demir said,
is an emphasis on a combination of national values and Muslim
values, and is caused by what some see as an unhealthy
relationship between the state and the individual. He told
us that those who value Islamism put Islamic values ahead of
traditional "Turkish values" and emphasize Turkey's
connections with the Middle East over western connections.
Demir also told us that Kurdish nationalism is on the rise
among the young Kurdish population in Turkey's southeastern
provinces.

6. (SBU) The English Language Fellows (ELFs) posted in
Trabzon and Eskisehir told us that their students identified
themselves as Turks first, and Muslims second. (Note: ELFs
are USG-funded English instructors who teach English in a
variety of cities throughout Turkey.) When asked what being
"Turkish" meant, leaders of the Istanbul-based youth group
Yeni Nesil (New Generation) told us that it was a "packet of
values," including loyalty, hospitality, caring about others,
and tolerance.

7. (SBU) In June 2006, Erzurum Ataturk University's Faculty
of Economic and Administrative Sciences conducted a survey of
university students country-wide on a variety of topics,
including identity. When asked about nationalist sentiment,
nearly half of all students surveyed identified themselves as
either "very close" or "close" to this feeling.

-------
COMMENT
-------

8. (SBU) Turkey's population is heavily weighted toward young
people, but the GOT's successful macroeconomic policies have
yet to translate into sufficient job creation to absorb the
waves of young people entering the work force. The sheer
numbers of young people entering the work force poses an
enormous challenge to policy makers. With nationalism and
Islamism increasing among the youth, the GOT needs to focus
as well on reforming its educational system to provide
higher-level schooling to a larger percentage of the
population. If left unaddressed, the vast lack of
educational opportunities for students, particularly in the
east and southeast, is a political, economic, and social time
bomb that will add to the existing alienation and
hopelessness in that region.

Visit Ankara's Classified Web Site at
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/ankara/

WILSON

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