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    Tough times for the Turkish people working in US

    by Ayşegül Akyarlı Güven - Hurriyet
    28.04.2009 - 00:00 | Son Güncelleme:

    ISTANBUL - People who have working permits to work in the United States are pushed aside, as the federal government is urging companies to prioritize US citizens when seeking to hire new employees. Some 300,000 Turkish citizens who are working in the US are feeling the pain of joblessness as the gap between citizens and non-citizens continues to grow further

    The entire world is busy battling against the unemployment, contraction and recession winds blowing all the way from the United States. However, some 300,000 Turkish citizens working in the homeland of the crisis feel its impact breathing heavier down their necks.

    The U.S. government has constantly been calling on banks benefiting from the state aid to prioritize U.S. citizens in staff hiring, instead of those who are just residents with work permits. That implementation has been widening the gap between U.S. citizens and non-citizens.

    Despite the diverse opinions on the duration and impacts of the crisis, Turks living in the United States agree their struggle has just begun.

    Salih Eroğlu, who serves as project manager at one of the top U.S. construction firms, is facing tough times at his two construction and one real estate firms. "The market value of the projects we develop are now below the costs. Sales dropped dramatically. Small firms have either gone bust or are on the verge of filing bankruptcy."

    Eroğlu, who has lived in the United States for eight years, is trying to create opportunities out of the crisis with the healthy beverage chain, Juice Zone, which he brought from Canada to Turkey last year.

    Blaming immigrants for rising unemployment
    Particularly following layoffs, many Americans have started to blame immigrants for their joblessness, Eroğlu said. "People are more anxious compared to the past."

    Eroğlu said he is considering selling his properties in the United States to pay off loans once the market stirs some and then returning to Turkey.

    "During the crisis, we have learned to be more careful in using our credit cards. Previously, we consumed everything redundantly and in large sizes. People now learn to do with less."

    Many people are obliged to work inordinately and in jobs they do not like amid the crisis, said Zafer Zamboğlu, product manager at Omnivision, a developer of advanced digital imaging solutions. The "Thank God I still have a job" mentality is widespread, said Zamboğlu, who has been living in the United States for 11 years. "Of course, it is important to survive the crisis.

    But this should not mean spending so many years doing a job one does not like." Zamboğlu’s retirement savings has declined 20 percent and the value of his house by almost 25 percent within the last six months, he said.

    His wife, Ayşe Önal Zamboğlu, who has been living in the United States for eight years, is a research and development manager at a pharmaceutical firm. She said she feels the stress of the crisis like all people, but her business has a different position compared to the general market. "I am working at a start-up company.

    The survival of our firm is based on investors’ investing money.

    The situation of our firm is based on the results of our clinical experiments rather than the crisis. And we do not have any problem at present."

    Batuhan Bakır, who has been living in Dallas for the last 10 years and has a car-parking company at three locations in the United States, reduced his staff from nine to seven amid the crisis, Bakır said.

    "My savings have not melted. The rent of the house I am living in remains the same this year.

    I think there was no demeanor against foreigners in the United States prior to the crisis, and there is no such demeanor at present, either. The most obvious example is that Barrack Obama, the grandson of Obama family, which came to the United States two generations ago, is now the president."

    What is important in the United States is not making savings but to be self-sufficient, according to Berke Çakır, who returned to Turkey after living two years in California.

    He returned to Turkey at the initial stage of the crisis, but he had to seek jobs for four months. "Human resources firms believed that it would be difficult to adapt here as I lived in the U.S. I had 50 meetings at minimum."

    In the United States, people have begun to cut back on entertainment expenditures, dining out, long-distance voyages and buying manual vehicles, Çakır said. "Family ties have developed much during the crisis. People visit their families now, which is an incredible thing."

    Private sector hit, people lean toward state projects
    Evren Uğurbaş, a civil engineer who has been in Los Angeles for eight years, serves as project manager in a local construction firm. The firm, which mostly develops projects for the state, could not win a tender for nine months, he said.

    The crisis hit the private sector first. Therefore many firms started to orient toward state projects, increasing participation in tenders, he said, adding that the prices offered by the companies that win the tenders are below costs. "Many companies may file bankruptcy in a few years."

    Many companies did not introduce salary increases. They have also taken back some of the rights they had granted, Uğurbaş said. "Companies used to cover health insurance for their employees’ significant other. That is not the case anymore.

    They cut off the cost from employee paychecks. That actually means an annual $2,000 to $3,000 drop in salaries," he said. "I have lost almost 50 percent on the investments I made for my retirement.

    "In the midst of all developments Turkey is still in denial. They are still discussing whether the crisis exists.

    Rather than staying at a place that discusses the presence of the crisis, it seems more advantageous for me to continue working in an economy that accepts the situation and tries to take measures."
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