EMRE DELİVELİ > Desperate Turkish Housewives?

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A report from Ankara-think tank TEPAV made a big splash a couple of weeks ago.

Based on the Turkish Statistical Agency’s March employment figures, the TEPAV unemployment bulletin highlighted that the number of housewives had increased by nearly half a million annually. While the population over the age of 15 grew by 1.2 million during this period, the number of people in the labor force increased by only 328,000. The rest, a hefty 868,000, chose not to seek employment. Of those, 496,000 were housewives.

While the bulletin itself did not jump to any conclusions, it did not require a lot of imagination on the part of newspapers to come up with titles paying homage to the popular American chick-show. However, in a short note published yesterday, Gökçe Uysal of Istanbul-think tank BETAM questions whether Turkish women really are desperate housewives.

She first notes that women’s labor force participation has actually been rising since 2008. It is not a big surprise that the increase coincided with the global crisis: If the main breadwinner of a family is unemployed, or likely to be soon, the other members are more likely to join the labor force. This effect, which is particularly strong in countries like Turkey, where many women would otherwise choose to stay at home, was clearly observed during the 2001 crisis, when women’s labor force participation jumped 7 percent in two quarters.

But while this figure subsequently fell in the wake of the 2001 crisis, the same has not happened more recently, despite a recovery. During a phone interview on Friday, Uysal explained this may be due to the increase in women’s education as well as the recent reductions in social security premiums for female workers.

In her note, Uysal also shows that the share of housewives in the working-age female population has actually been dropping since 2005. But she was quick to note that all this should not be taken to mean that Turkish women are not desperate housewives. Women’s labor force participation is currently 29.2 percent, and the army of housewives makes up 43 percent of working-age women. They are just not as desperate as the TEPAV bulletin suggests.

So what should be done? The BETAM report “Increasing the Labor Force Participation of Disadvantaged Groups,” which was released yesterday, offers some concrete policy recommendations. One is childcare availability and support, which would induce women to work. Flexible labor regulations, including temporary employment, on the other hand, would increase the demand for women. Fellow Daily News columnist Güven Sak, who happens to be TEPAV’s Managing Director, made the same argument in his own “desperate housewives” column last week.

Maternity leave is a tricky issue. While better leave terms would make women more likely to seek employment, it would also make firms less likely to hire them. In Sweden, fathers have paternity leave, which cannot be transferred to mothers. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one: this is one of the recommendations of the BETAM report as well.

After all, modern Turkey was quick to grant women voting rights. I don’t see why we cannot be at the forefront of women’s labor regulation. Except that…


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Kevin Snapp

8/4/2012 2:11:14 AM

If it's not too late to enter the game, here's my suggestion for the last sentence: "Except that for both secular and religious conservatives, whether followers of the Prophet or followers of the profits, this would mean being in the forefront of a march in the wrong direction." [If I'm the winner, please donate the wife-beater to charity.]

mara mcglothin

7/30/2012 5:26:44 PM

Except..... for the backward men! Since the prize is a wife beater there could be no other response. Regards Emre! Oh and FYI ADELE My mother in law was wonderful and in Turkey she worked herself to death. Housewives do work, not to draw atteniton away from the article! It is what it is.

Blue Dotterel

7/30/2012 4:29:57 PM

Significant maternity leave is not part of the neo-liberal philosophy. Women will be compelled to enter the labor force. Lower wages, part time work, fewer benefits, cuts in social security and health care, are all part of the neo-liberal philosophy. This means that one wage earning partner cannot support a family, especially an Erdogan sized family. So neo-liberalism will eventually force women into the work force as it has in many Western countries. It won't be a matter of choice, though.

Adele Gill

7/30/2012 3:42:01 PM

Desperate Turkish Housewives become monster mother in laws, monster sister in laws as they are bored to death and have nothing to do apart from getting together, gossiping and exchanging golds! They should all BE MADE to work!!!! No exceptions!

Emre Deliveli

7/30/2012 12:15:57 PM

@DKI: Probably, as I am hinting from the end of the column. But "imagine" is free!:)

Emre Deliveli

7/30/2012 9:15:28 AM

In the spirit of the Olympics, I am running a small contest: I left the last sentence incomplete on purpose. Post your completed sentence here or email me privately. At the end of the day, my. fav. will win a designer wife-beater. Let the games begin!:)

dogan kemal ileri

7/30/2012 1:43:20 AM

As the song goes "that'll be the day" !!!!
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