This post is part of the series of papers investigating how the non-realization (or limited realization) of distributive justice claims experienced by the most vulnerable and marginalized groups in the society are dealt with in Austria, Hungary, the Netherlands, Portugal, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.
Young women in Turkey constitute one of the most vulnerable groups with respect to the labour market participation. The National Employment Strategy from 2014 to 2023, published by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, defines vulnerable groups as ‘women, youth, the long-term unemployed, and disabled individuals with low rates of participation in the labour force and who work in unregistered or underpaying jobs and who therefore face a high risk of unemployment despite positive discrimination and the absence of legal obstacles.’ Women’s labour force participation rate in Turkey is one of the lowest among the OECD countries. In 2017, labour force participation for women (+15) was only at 32,5% (72,0% for men) while the employment rate is at 28% (65,1% for men), which is drastically below the OECD average of 59,5%. The employment rate for the age group 25-35 is 38%. This demonstrates that the majority of young women is still out of the labour market. Before discussing their position in the labour market, we must first ask the question why the majority of the working age women are out of or do not have access to the labour market. The vulnerability of women — young women in particular — manifests itself with obstacles to enter the labour market as well as with an inability to stay in it once they were hired. Access and continuity issues can be explained by difficulties in reconciling work and family life and by a labour market structure that creates vulnerabilities, especially for young, undereducated women who are engaged in informal or precarious jobs.
In the last ten years, Turkey made significant changes to its labour market regulations and took measures in order to increase the participation of vulnerable groups. The policies that support female employment are situated in a wider context of policies designed to promote flexible employment practices which were introduced by the labour law in 2003. In general, they address working hours and atypical employment contracts. In 2016, new regulations and flexible working hours were introduced, including part-time work for women with children. Accordingly, all women in the labour market can opt to work part-time for up to two months following the birth of their first child, four months after the second child, and six months after the third. Working parents (both men and women) are allowed to work part-time until the child starts primary school. The same rights are granted to adoptive parents. These policies, which are presented as work and family reconciliation efforts, are situated in the wider context of flexible employment policies. The ability of flexible labour market policies in order to create decent work opportunities for women is questionable.
Furthermore, the unshared care responsibility combined with an inadequate public mechanism for care fails to increase female employment. This applies to all socio-economic groups, but holds particularly true for young women with low socio-economic status. As a representative of a women’s NGO revealed in our fieldwork: “Before tackling flexible work models, Turkey has other [more important] problems to deal with. The underdeveloped childcare services constitute a major problem that needs to be handled as a matter of priority. Otherwise, the flexible work scheme is simply a mechanism that perpetuates young women’s responsibility for care.” Not only does the unavailability of childcare restrict women’s access to the labour market, it also limits their ability to stay in the labour market, meaning to keep their jobs when they have children. Another issue that was often raised by NGOs concerns the fact that children under the age of five also rely on private childcare facilities. Costly or unaffordable childcare facilities discourage young women from taking jobs. With the absence of adequate public services for providing childcare — which also maintains the traditional gender division of labour within the family alive – the adopted women-friendly measures fail to increase female employment.
 TurkStat (2018) “Women in Statistics, 2017” Monthly Statistical Bulletins, March 6, 2018 retrieved May 2, 2018 from http://www.turkstat.gov.tr/PreHaberBultenleri.do?id=27594
By Basak Akkan
written for the ETHOS Project as Working Paper within D6.2
The cross-country analysis is available at: https://ethos-europe.eu/publications