Mind the gap
We have a fixation in Turkey. Every now and then, we like to emphasize that Turkey belongs to Europe. If ever a foreign government, official or publication lists Turkey among countries other than Europe, Turks will get upset. Have you seen the latest issue of the Global Gender Gap Report of the World Economic Forum though? Let me tell you what I see: When it comes to gender gaps, Turkey definitely belongs to the Middle East; among the 136 countries surveyed in the report, Turkey ranked 120th. That is a reality check for me. Just have a look at the report and see what I mean. There is no question that Turkey needs to mind the gender gap. We also need to mind the gap in Quranic education for children, I have to say. Let me explain.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) started publishing its global gender gap reports in 2006. It is a very useful service. Comparing one’s country to others can give one perspective. This is not a report about levels of attainment in different walks of life, like political participation. It is a report about the gap between males and females qualified by way of particular indicators. In this regard there was a very clear gender gap identified among those who carry out high skilled occupations such as legislators in the Meclis (Parliament), managers of companies or executive board members. There is nothing about input variables, like the length of maternity leave, in different countries. Turkey, like all the other Middle Eastern countries, is just crawling, at the very bottom.
There are four pillars in the index. The first is economic participation and opportunity, the second is educational attainment, the third is health and survival, while the fourth pillar is political empowerment.
Would you like to know where Turkey fares best? It is in health and survival. There are two indicators here: one is the sex ratio at birth, where, at least, Turkey is not discarding or aborting female babies, as is evident in some other countries; the second being healthy life expectancy, i.e., the years that men and women are expected to live in good health. There is a gap there too of course, but it is not as severe as the others. Turkey’s worst performance is in economic participation, which covers both the participation gap as well as the remuneration gap. While the country ranks 58th in the first, it falls down to 127th in the second. The political participation gap? Turkey is 107th among 134 countries.
Ranking 120th among 134 countries makes Turkey a Middle Eastern country. That bodes ill for a country aspiring to join the European Union.
The Global Gender Report does not say this, but let me give you an additional example of how the gender gap has manifested itself in our society. In this one though, the males are behind. Have you seen the gender figures for the Directorate of Religious Affairs’ Quran courses? These are state-sponsored courses where children learn to recite our holy book. If you look at the number of participants of Quran courses, 95 percent of them are girls. That surprised me, I have to confess. It seems that only girls have to learn about the holy book. Boys surely face heavy discrimination at home. That should be food for thought, while you think about how to mind the gap.