Inequalities run deep in Turkey and women suffer the most
ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News | 7/24/2010 12:00:00 AM | DEVRİM SEVİMAY
Women’s employment has been decreasing since 2000 and the participation of women in the workforce lags not only behind OECD countries, but other Islamic countries as well.
Women’s employment has been decreasing since 2000 and the participation of women in the workforce lags not only behind Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD, member countries, but other Islamic countries as well, a recent study has revealed. According to academic Ayşen Candaş, one of the reasons behind this trend is rural women’s increasing migration to urban areas. The agricultural sector is shrinking in Turkey, said Candaş, adding, “The majority of women in the work force were those employed in the agriculture sector. As agriculture has been diminishing and women have been migrating to big cities they have become stuck at home.”
A recent study that once again revealed the truth about women’s low participation in the workforce focuses on the inequalities in Turkey. Inequalities are extremely deep in Turkey and women are the ones that suffer the most, showed the report prepared by the Social Political Forum of Boğaziçi University. A team comprised by Volkan Yılmaz, Sevda Günseli, Burcu Yakut Çakar and headed by Ayşen Candaş has scrutinized more than 500 national and international studies on Turkey published since 2000, with a special focus on those released during the last five years.
The founder of the Social Political Forum, Prof Ayşe Buğra who together with Candaş headed the research, explained the reasoning behind such an endeavor: “Since 2004 when the Social Political Forum was established we kept receiving reports on income distribution, employment, political representation, social security and education. These reports all included very important information about different dimensions of inequalities in Turkey. Yet the picture drawn by all the reports was much bigger than the compilation of each separate report. When we realized that, we thought we should look at the totality of the picture and we needed to come with proposals based on the whole picture.”
“I saw how much we were right to decide to go ahead with this study. I saw how bad the situation really was,” said Candaş. While working on the framework of the study, the team knew that inequalities were to be considered within an integral approach, that this problem needed to be tackled from many platforms like societal, social or constitutional ones. Candaş said: “We knew all this on theoretical level. Yet when we looked at the facts it became clear how we were right even above our estimations.”
The feeling is bad: “It’s like we knew it theoretically but we have not shouted enough about them. As if one can not have a good sleep if one knows all of this.”
“That some groups in Turkey get their share to the end – from socioeconomic inequalities, as well as discrimination stemming from inequalities,” is the general picture revealed by the study, said Candaş. “In addition, the doors to politicize their problem are also closed since the doors for political representation for these groups also remain closed. These groups remain in a vicious cycle and increasingly break away from the center of politics,” she argued.
The groups in question are not just tiny, marginal groups in the society. On the contrary. “We are talking about large segments of the society. There are victims in all groups. Kids, youth, handicapped, workers, those facing discrimination due to their sexual choice, their mother tongue, ethnic affiliation, religious or sectarian difference. And of course women. Whichever subject you look at, the situation of women is just horrible,” Candaş said.
The average rate of women’s employment among the members of the OECD is 62 or 63 percent, while the rate in Turkey is 25 percent, according to Candaş. For years, when compared with other countries regarding women’s employment, political participation and their economic power in society, Turkey ranks near the bottom. “If you look at 133 countries, Turkey ranks 120. If you look at 126 countries Turkey ranks 123,” she said. Looking at the facts after 2000, Candaş claimed women’s employment has been decreasing since 2000. The low rate of women’s employment even lags behind the rate in other Islamic countries. The World Bank found this fact striking and felt the need to publish a special report on women’s employment in Turkey, she said. The World Bank refuted the argument that the low rate of women’s participation in the workforce is a result of the fact that Turkey is an Islamic country, according to Candaş. Looking at 5 or 6 other Islamic countries, including Saudi Arabia and Iran, Turkey is the only country that has a diminishing rate of women’s employment.
The increasing disappearance of agriculture from Turkey is one of the reasons behind this situation, believes Candaş. “The majority of women in the workforce were those employed in the agriculture sector. As agriculture has diminished and women have been migrating to big cities they have become stuck at home. Even without regular pay, women in villages took part in the workforce, whereas in the cities they have become excluded from the workforce. This is the result of the fact that increasing conservatism has coincided with this increased migration.”
The lack of state motivation also plays a role, believes Candaş. “If we had a look at statistics from the 1950’s or 60’s, Turkey would not have been too far away from where Finland stood. Yet those states have followed such policies like positive discrimination toward women that, if, let’s say men’s power to exert their rights is at 100, the situation with women is at 98 or 99. And this has not taken place on its own. This was due to the intervention from the state.”
For Candaş, this is a matter of mentality. If Turkey got rid of this mentality and created policies accordingly, then it would be possible to see that women and men can participate in life on equal conditions. Turkey should get rid of the mentality of seeing a woman as an individual that should not work but stay at home. Half of girls aged between 15 and 19 are present neither in the education system nor in the workforce, reveals the report. Candaş responds to the question of where they are if not at school or work: “They are at home waiting to get married. Most of them are graduates of religious imam hatip schools and vocational schools.”
[HH]A successful solution requires appropriate identification of the problem
One of the critical findings of the report, called “Inequalities in Turkey: A Report on a General View to Permanent Inequalities,” is to avoid reducing the solution to the problems to simple formulas. “If we think, this is just a socioeconomic problem and can be solved by economic measures, than we reinforce inequalities based on discrimination. If we just follow politicians that look to the problem from the prism of culture and say this is a problem of identity and discrimination, then we will again be locked to the vicious circle that reinvigorates socio economic inequalities, as well as those inequalities on the status of women,” she said.
Çandaş believes there is a need for hybrid solutions that take into account both discrimination and socio – economic disparities. In the Kurdish problem for instance, there is a need to come up with some socioeconomic solutions that at the same time end discrimination.
BOX BOX BOX
Findings from the report
– The rate of women’s participation in the workforce in Turkey is below 30 percent. The average rate in OECD countries is 62 percent. The average rate in the EU is 64 percent.
– The rate of women who have lost hope in finding a job and have stopped looking, compared to unemployed women, is 32 percent, while it is 18 percent among men.
– The rate of women's wages in Turkey compared to those of men who work in similar jobs is 0.62. Turkey ranks 84th out of 125 countries globally in terms of gender–based wage inequality.
– The rate of women that are not covered by social security is 84 percent in the East and 87 percent in the Southeast.