Turkey: A country full of surprises Turkey: A country full of surprises

Turkey: A country full of surprises
20 Jun 2018

Turkey is full of surprises. For example, few people outside of its borders are aware that it has the second largest construction industry in the world by volume or in terms of the number of structures built outside of its home country – and it has done for the last decade. In fact, since 1972, Turkish firms have completed more than 9,000 projects worth a total of US$340bn, with the average price standing at US$100m.

But Turkey has also been through a challenging time over recent years  and is experiencing heightened tensions again now ahead of national elections on 24 June, in which President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hopes to win a second term in office. 

Nonetheless, the country has traditionally been a popular location for European expats.  So what is useful to know about it if visiting or setting up shop there?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the construction sector is a major source of employment in Turkey. While the vast majority of its building companies work internationally, a lot of domestic infrastructure and development work is also taking place locally.

For example, a third airport in Istanbul, which is scheduled to open at the end of October, will be the largest in the world, being able to handle 90 million passengers each year. Then there is the 3.6km long Canakkale 1915 suspension Bridge and Highway project over the Dardanelles Straits.  Another major initiative is the fantastically named ‘Three-Level Grand Istanbul Tunnel Project’, which will unite both the European and Asian sides of Turkey’s largest city by enabling cars and trains to pass under the Sea of Bosphorus. 

Booming businesses

Elsewhere, manufacturing in general, and textiles in particular, are other areas that are booming at the moment, accounting for around 7% of GDP. Although the market has grown over recent years, its total contribution to the economy has fallen as the country continues to perform better than expected on global markets. 

However, the 60,000 or textile and clothing manufacturers that operate in Turkey employ roughly two million people. It is one of the world’s leading producers of cotton and demand is now so high that it is also the third largest importer of the material in the world. 

Moreover, the food and fast-moving consumer goods sectors are also showing healthy growth. Indeed, Turkey is one of only a small list of countries that is close to achieving complete self-sufficiency in food production. Therefore, as is the case in the textile and manufacturing sectors, it is now looking to expand into global markets. This means that international management and business expansion skills tend to be in short supply here.

But Turkey also boasts some major employers elsewhere too. These include Turkish Airlines (or Turk Hava Yollari as it is known in Turkey), financial services firms such as Isbank, Garanti Bank and Akbank, and Turkish Telekom, which have all seen their fortunes improve in recent years.

Before making a commitment to the country, however, it is worth remembering President Erdogan’s reaction to the failed coup against him when he imprisoned thousands of soldiers, journalists and other citizens. This failed army takeover led to him clamping down on civil liberties and press freedom – and it takes very little criticism of the Government these days to end up with a prison sentence.

But despite such issues, it must be said that Turkey remains a fantastic location to live and work and one that still offers plenty of opportunities.

 Michelle Reilly 

Michelle Reilly has almost 20 years’ experience in contractor management. She joined CXC in 2009 to set-up its global Europe, Middle East and Africa business, and last year led a management buyout of the recruitment agency side of the organisation. Michelle is now chief executive of 6CATS International, which provides compliant contractor management solutions.

Turkey is full of surprises. For example, few people outside of its borders are aware that it has the second largest construction industry in the world by volume or in terms of the number of structures built outside of its home country – and it has done for the last decade. In fact, since 1972, Turkish firms have completed more than 9,000 projects worth a total of US$340bn, with the average price standing at US$100m.

But Turkey has also been through a challenging time over recent years  and is experiencing heightened tensions again now ahead of national elections on 24 June, in which President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hopes to win a second term in office. 

Nonetheless, the country has traditionally been a popular location for European expats.  So what is useful to know about it if visiting or setting up shop there?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the construction sector is a major source of employment in Turkey. While the vast majority of its building companies work internationally, a lot of domestic infrastructure and development work is also taking place locally.

For example, a third airport in Istanbul, which is scheduled to open at the end of October, will be the largest in the world, being able to handle 90 million passengers each year. Then there is the 3.6km long Canakkale 1915 suspension Bridge and Highway project over the Dardanelles Straits.  Another major initiative is the fantastically named ‘Three-Level Grand Istanbul Tunnel Project’, which will unite both the European and Asian sides of Turkey’s largest city by enabling cars and trains to pass under the Sea of Bosphorus. 

Booming businesses

Elsewhere, manufacturing in general, and textiles in particular, are other areas that are booming at the moment, accounting for around 7% of GDP. Although the market has grown over recent years, its total contribution to the economy has fallen as the country continues to perform better than expected on global markets. 

However, the 60,000 or textile and clothing manufacturers that operate in Turkey employ roughly two million people. It is one of the world’s leading producers of cotton and demand is now so high that it is also the third largest importer of the material in the world. 

Moreover, the food and fast-moving consumer goods sectors are also showing healthy growth. Indeed, Turkey is one of only a small list of countries that is close to achieving complete self-sufficiency in food production. Therefore, as is the case in the textile and manufacturing sectors, it is now looking to expand into global markets. This means that international management and business expansion skills tend to be in short supply here.

But Turkey also boasts some major employers elsewhere too. These include Turkish Airlines (or Turk Hava Yollari as it is known in Turkey), financial services firms such as Isbank, Garanti Bank and Akbank, and Turkish Telekom, which have all seen their fortunes improve in recent years.

Before making a commitment to the country, however, it is worth remembering President Erdogan’s reaction to the failed coup against him when he imprisoned thousands of soldiers, journalists and other citizens. This failed army takeover led to him clamping down on civil liberties and press freedom – and it takes very little criticism of the Government these days to end up with a prison sentence.

But despite such issues, it must be said that Turkey remains a fantastic location to live and work and one that still offers plenty of opportunities.

 Michelle Reilly 

Michelle Reilly has almost 20 years’ experience in contractor management. She joined CXC in 2009 to set-up its global Europe, Middle East and Africa business, and last year led a management buyout of the recruitment agency side of the organisation. Michelle is now chief executive of 6CATS International, which provides compliant contractor management solutions.