A courier rides a motorbike on a street in Istanbul, Turkey, on Dec. 1, 2020. As the service industry suffers from restrictions and lockdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic in Turkey, people in need of work switch to a motorbike courier business, a booming job in big cities. (Photo by Osman Orsal/Xinhua)
ISTANBUL, Dec. 1 (Xinhua) -- As the service industry suffers from restrictions and lockdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic in Turkey, people in need of work switch to a motorbike courier business, a booming job in big cities.
Baris, a man in his late 30s, used to work as a tattoo artist in the Turkish capital Ankara. He is now a motorcycle courier of an American pizza brand located in the residential Yildizevler neighborhood.
"I was a tattooist for 10 years, but the business, which already had financial difficulties, didn't survive the pandemic. So I looked for work elsewhere, and I found this one," he told Xinhua, without giving his surname.
Flashing proudly with his many tattoos on his arms, he indicated that at least he has a steady job in these difficult times and is relatively satisfied with what he is doing for the moment.
"I can not complain. It is not very hard work when you get used to it, and there are also tips. When this pandemic is over, I am planning to return to my profession," he noted, adding that there are many people like him from a range of various professions.
In Turkey, the food and beverage sector used to employ up to 2 million workers before the outbreak erupted in March. The industry has been hit by the latest string of restrictions as restaurants and cafes have been closed due to the record resurgence of new COVID-19 infections.
As in many other countries, the pandemic has caused a rise in unemployment in Turkey despite government aid.
Restaurants have turned to takeouts, and as service workers have been dismissed, additional couriers have been hired.
The Turkish Restaurants and Entertainment Association's head Kaya Demirer, quoted by the local press, said that the sector's loss in the last days was quite substantial.
"This is a business with an annual revenue of 135 billion Turkish liras (17.15 billion U.S. dollars). The recent loss amounted to 740 million liras ," he said.
On Monday evening, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced stricter measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus, such as a full weekend lockdown and a night curfew every day of the week.
"We did not lay off any of our waiters, for the moment. But naturally, as they are on unpaid leave, their wages have been reduced to half," Rasit Celik, a manager of an Ankara-based pizza brand, told Xinhua.
"We had eight delivery boys before, and we hired two more recently, and we plan to hire a few more in the coming days to satisfy increasing takeout calls," he said.
The couriers are paid the minimum wage plus tips they receive from customers.
This company has 10 branches in Ankara, and one in Eskisehir, 200 km northwest of the capital, known as a student-friendly town for its universities.
A new restaurant was planned to open this month in Istanbul's trendy Moda neighborhood, but it has been postponed for a couple of weeks because of the new restrictions. "It will be operational soon with only takeaway service," Celik added.
The myriad of delivery bikes in big cities' streets is also noticeable, with its risks and dangers in traffic in the country's biggest cities, Istanbul and Ankara.
Delivery personnel who rely on customer satisfaction surveys and a rating system for food delivery services put their lives more at risk as businesses race to deliver food as quickly as possible.
Cagdas Yavuz, who heads an association of motorcycle couriers, told the local Demiroren news agency that "we do not want to risk our lives for a delivery worth just 20 liras because of reckless drivers."
Pedestrians complain, on the other hand, that the reckless ones do not hesitate to take the sidewalks in their race against time, causing serious accidents and injuries. Enditem