# Keeping women at home costs \$574 billion a year

##### ESEN ÇAĞLAR
Where would we be today if we had experienced the past 30 years differently?

I will use the table below to answer this question. While I was preparing this table, I opted for conventional methods from time to time. The reason that I chose South Korea in the table is that this country had the same national income per capita as Turkey 30 years ago. Another reason is that I was so envious of Seoul, which I had the opportunity to see for the first time last week.

Let’s take a look at the first two lines of the table and compare Turkey’s and Korea’s present situation: Even though the Koreans are twice as rich compared to Turks, the major difference between them is not applicable to the level of productivity (production per capita). Here in Turkey, while one worker produces \$30,000 a year, one worker produces \$41,000 added value in a year in Korea. In other words, only 37 percent more than one in Turkey. Even though Korea has been upgraded to the status of a developed country, it has not reached the production level per capita of France, for example, (\$100,000) or Germany (\$86,000).

Korea’s population is 49 million, Turkey’s is 73 million. However, the size of the working population in both countries is exactly the same: 25 million. In other words, while Korea is taking care of its 49 million with its 25 million working people, Turkey is taking care of its 73 million with 25 million.

In Korea, 10 million women are working; in Turkey, only 7 million women work. This difference comes from the fact that the female participation rate in the labor force is a pitiable 24 percent. When I look at the table, frankly, I see the principle difference between Turkey and Korea as being women’s involvement in the economy.

I have two scenarios. In the first one, I made a rough calculation so that the female participation rate in the labor force is assumed to be the same as Korea. So, an average of 7 million more women will join the workforce in Turkey, and they will produce the average production level of \$30,000 per capita. If such a Turkey existed today, then income per capita would become \$13,000 and total national income would be \$1.1 trillion.

In my second scenario, I assumed women in Turkey would have the same rate of participation (50 percent) and the same rate of \$41,000 added value per year. If it were such, then our per capita income would be \$18,000 and our national income would rise to \$1.3 trillion, making us the world’s 13th largest economy after Spain.

Now, I can almost hear these questions: If so many women join the workforce, then unemployment rates would jump. How are we going to create jobs for them? How can we raise the newly joining women’s productivity? How can we raise Turkey’s general level of productivity by 37 percent?

Well, yes, excuse me but, what have we done in the last 30 years? For example, what have we done to make the labor market more flexible, to enable women to gain the necessary knowledge and skills, to strengthen child care services, to modernize and open to competition the services sector where urban women can work, or to solve transportation of women so that they commute safely from their homes to their workplaces without being harassed? When the Korean state built the Seoul metro in 1974 even though it was much poorer than us, what were we thinking? How do we explain that while Seoul has 328 metro stops, the Istanbul metro, which we were able to open in 2000, has only 12 stops?

I can almost hear those who console themselves with this classic tale: “Korea is not democratic whereas we are very democratic.” How can we be democratic without the presence of women, could you please tell me?

This piece is an abridged version of an article by Esen Çağlar, an economic policies analyst at Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey (TEPAV).

Keeping women at home costs \$574 billion a year

This piece is an abridged version of an article by Esen Çağlar, an economic policies analyst at Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey (TEPAV).
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