Labour Market Impact of Syrian Refugees in Turkey: The View of Employers in Informal Textile Sector in Istanbul

Kayaoğlu Yılmaz A.

MIGRATION LETTERS, vol.17, no.5, pp.583-595, 2020 (ESCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 17 Issue: 5
  • Publication Date: 2020
  • Doi Number: 10.33182/ml.v17i5.891
  • Journal Indexes: Emerging Sources Citation Index (ESCI), Scopus, Academic Search Premier, International Bibliography of Social Sciences, Agricultural & Environmental Science Database
  • Page Numbers: pp.583-595
  • Keywords: Syrian refugees, labour market, textile sector, informal labour, employers, OUTCOMES EVIDENCE, IMMIGRATION
  • Istanbul Technical University Affiliated: Yes


In less than a decade, Turkey has become home to some 4 million Syrians due to the bloody conflict across much of its southern border. That only a fraction of those refugees live in designated camps with the overwhelming majority spread about the country has led to hostile sentiments among some natives who blame Syrians for taking away their jobs. Still, research about the impact of Syrians on Turkish labour market outcomes is too limited. Empirical findings analysing micro-level data find either no impact or just abysmall changes to natives' formal employment rates but rather declines in rates of informal employment. This paper presents the findings of a three-month fieldwork in Istanbul's informal textile sector. Looking at the issue from the view of employers, it shows that "on average" country-level findings of the empirical analysis might be quite simplifying and sometimes inconsistent depending on the context. By just looking at the issue in a specific/neighbourhood setting, namely informal textile sector in a rather homogenous urban neighbourhood where the main competition in jobs are between Kurds and Syrians, this study shows that employment rates of natives declined in that specific field due to other factors independent of the Syrians and interestingly even predating their arrival to Turkey. The war-fleeing migrants are understood to have rather taken jobs no longer desired by the natives and generally paid lower wages than natives for doing them. This study particularly raises the role of skill gaps in the local market, changes in the meaning of work in the local population and informal-formal sector interdependence due to price pressures by global value chains in understanding the effect of refugees on locals' labour market outcomes.