The Impact of COVID-19 on the Wages and Living Conditions of the Syrian Migrants in Turkey 34 34 Policy Brief on the Future of Work MARTINDALE CENTER Executive Summary Following the outbreak of Civil War in 2011, 6 million Syrians were forced to leave their jobs, homes, and even their families and flee to neighboring countries like Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon. As of 2021, Turkey hosts 3,643,000 of the approximately 6 million externally displaced Syrians in the world, according to the Directorate General of Migration Management of Turkey. Most Syrians end up leaving refugee camps to seek better housing options. In 2017, 98.6% of Syrian residents in Turkey rented housing, enabling them to participate in the available urban labor market (Toren). Around 1.8 million of the Syrian refugees in Turkey are aged 18–60, which means they are within the main workforce- participation age range. Unfortunately, they face language barriers and lack of help from national and international institutions to integrate into the workforce and the society, and their working and living conditions are far from ideal. EU public assistance is 120 Turkish liras monthly per person (European Union/ECHO), which amounts to just 4.2% of the minimum wage in Turkey as of 2021, plummeting from 9.2% in 2016. To compound matters, this public assistance is available only to those who fulfill very specific conditions. With an economy that was already struggling, the Turkish lira has been depreciating since 2016, as seen in Figure 1 (De Best). Furthermore, food prices have also been increasing since 2016, and with the COVID-19 pandemic, they are once again on the rise, further compounding the many other challenges Syrian migrants face in the labor market and social life in Turkey. Inthisessay,weanalyze thewagesandtheworkingconditions of the Syrian migrants in Turkey, pre– and post–COVID-19, taking economic and social trends into account. We assess how the pandemic has affected the labor environment in Turkey, especially that of the Syrian refugees, and how international and national organizations and the Turkish government are responding to the issue. Finally, based on our findings, we offer policy suggestions addressing the problems of the Syrian migrants regarding labor. Issues and Challenges Pre–COVID-19, macroeconomic indicators in Turkey were already of concern following the July 15, 2016, coup d’état attempt. Since then, the Turkish lira has been depreciating with a corresponding decline in purchasing power, with the result that the monthly legal minimum wage in Turkey has also been decreasing in value. As Figure 2 shows, the Turkish monthly minimum wage in 2016 was worth 405 euros, whereas it fell to only 307 euros in 2021 (TurkishMinistry of Family, Labor and Social Services). Further, food inflation increased sixfold, from 5% annually in 2016 to 30% by 2019, according to official Turkstat data (Turkey Food Inflation, 2021). Anne O’Rourke, Director of Team International Assistance for Integration (TIAFI), a community center that runs on donations and by volunteers and serves Syrian migrants in Izmir, tells us that food prices are vital to Syrian migrants, as their earnings are nowhere near covering their food expenses (O’Rourke). These Martindale Center Policy Briefs on the Future of Work were prepared by teams of students and young professionals serving as Research Externs with the Lehigh University / United Nations Partnership working in affiliation with the International Labour Organization. Authors: Onurcan Büyükkalkan • Kateryna Halushka • Junmoke James • Deeksha Jonnalagadda • Rolake Tomoye Series Editor: Stephen Cutcliffe, Ph.D. February 2021 The Impact of COVID-19 on the Wages and Living Conditions of the Syrian Migrants in Turkey Figure 1 Source: De Best.