Coal-based employment opportunities are steadily declining globally, including in Turkey. Even in the largest coal-producing countries, the contribution of the coal sector to overall employment remains minimal. According to data from the Social Security Institution (SSI), approximately 35.000 people are currently employed in the coal and lignite mining sector in Turkey.
According to data from the Household Labour Force Survey, the combined formal and informal employment in the sector amounts to less than 0.2 per cent of the total employment in Turkey. Therefore, although a coal exit may not heavily impact Turkey’s employment structure, it seems possible to compensate and mitigate the impact of employment losses in the coal sector. On the other hand, and due to the high dependence of local economies on coal in coal-producing regions, both private sector entities and public administration stakeholders argue that an exit from the coal sector could lead to further employment challenges for local economies and that it may be difficult for current employees to work in other sectors due to their skill levels.
This study examines the factors that could pose a challenge for social stakeholders to start a coal phase-out. Through an analysis of available data, potential problem areas are identified, and a comprehensive policy approach taking into account labour demand and supply for coal phase-out are discussed in light of Turkey’s current labour policies. Overall, the study shows that a coal exit is economically meaningful. Furthermore, it highlights that the current employment in the coal sector does not significantly differ in its qualitative structure from Turkey’s general employment structure. On the other hand, while the coal and lignite sector offers relatively high formal employment rates and wages, it is also characterised by high levels of gender inequality, child labour and an high incidence of occupational accidents and diseases. In conclusion the study findings demonstrate the feasibility of a just exit from coal for the workers in the sector, and has the potential to improve their living conditions if certain conditions are met. The study identifies what these essential conditions are, the policy areas they impact, and outlines the next steps needed to achieve a just transition.
The following sections see to answer a total of four questions:
1) Is coal of critical economic importance for Turkey?
2) Is the employment capacity of the coal sector large enough to create a significant loss of employment in the absence of the sector?
3) Is coal a difficult sector for workers to give up in terms of working conditions?
4) To what extent is it possible for employees currently employed in the coal sector to be employed in other sectors in the regions where they work?
In the final section, policy recommendations are formulated based on the answers to these four questions.