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Can Syrian refugees become boon to Turkey's economy?

The labor shortage in some of Turkey’s economic sectors — especially manufacturing, agriculture, and child and elder care — can offer employment opportunities for tens of thousands of Syrian refugees who are unlikely to return home.
Two Syrian refugees walk along fences in Nizip refugee camp, near the Turkish-Syrian border in Gaziantep province, Turkey, November 30, 2016. REUTERS/Umit Bektas - RTSU1PW
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As xenophobia appears on the rise, with 3 million Syrian refugees under “temporary protection” in Turkey, the headline of this story could raise many eyebrows. But let’s emphasize immediately that a large number of the refugees in Turkey are there to stay. A 2015 report by the Ankara-based Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies (ORSAM) shows 78% of the Syrians in Turkey would opt to stay if possible. Yet there has not been much discussion about how to minimize the social and economic impact of this humanitarian crisis.

Scientific studies show that in the long term, migrants generally have a very limited impact on employment in their host country, and one recent study argues that migrants actually have a positive impact on economic growth. Migrants may be adding to social polarization and divisions, but the environment of cultural diversity they create stimulates growth. According to calculations based on international data for 1960-2010, an increase of 10 percentage points in cultural diversity leads to a rise of 2.1 percentage points in gross domestic product (GDP) growth per capita. In developing countries, the increase reaches 2.8 percentage points.

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