Fewer women employed in Turkey: UN official

Fewer women employed in Turkey: UN official

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Fewer women employed in Turkey: UN official

Though global steps have been taken regarding gender equality recently, female participation in the labor force has decreased 10 percent, a UN official says. DAILY NEWS photo

In Turkey, although internationally commendable steps have been taken regarding gender equality over the last 10 years, female participation in the labor force has decreased 10 percent, according to a United Nations official.

The labor force participation rate for women, which was 40 percent in 2000, decreased to 27 percent in 2012 and in early 2013 has been less than 30 percent, the United Nations Gender Thematic Group Chair in Turkey and United Nations Population Fund representative for Turkey, Zahidul Huque, told the Hürriyet Daily News in a recent interview.

Lack of child care facilities and Turkey’s gradual move toward more conservatism may be reasons behind that, according to the U.N. official. Turkey has made significant progress in legislation on women’s rights, education and health, but in some areas Turkey falls behind, such as the gender inequality index, Huque said.

Turkey ranks 77th out of 146 countries, according to the Gender Inequality Index (GII), which reveals gender disparities in reproductive health, empowerment and labor market participation. Huque pointed to two primary reasons: “Turkey is far behind in the political participation of women in the decision-making process. The level of political representation in Parliament is only 14.1 percent and that of local government is less than two percent.”

‘Limited opportunities’

The second reason is an inability to engage women in the labor force, particularly in the upper class, non-agricultural sectors, he said. When asked the reasons for Turkey regressing in female labor force participation, Huque addressed the limited scope of opportunities for women in senior positions. Noting that Turkey once had a female premier, interior minister and representation in the Supreme Court, Huque said, “But now you have only one minister and one governor. You can see that women are not really in the top positions in the country, although the government has declared a positive discrimination [affirmative action] strategy.”

Another argument he put forward for the decreasing ratio of women in the labor force is that “married women are not encouraged to come to work due to a lack of childcare facilities.”

“Secondly, maybe Turkey has been moving toward more conservatism, where Turkish men don’t want their wives to go to work. This is my observation,” Huque said. Turkey has a long way to go on reproductive rights, and has been regressing on the issue in recent years, Huque said, recalling that in 1994 Turkey was a leader of the International Conference of Population Development (ICPD ) regarding women’s reproductive rights and reproductive health.

“However, right now, the government is shying away from talking about reproductive rights. They talk about reproductive health. Reproductive rights ensures a couple, a woman or a man; it’s up to an individual to decide how many children they are going to have, when they are going to have them and how often they are going to have them. It’s being a little bit less talked about now.”

The U.N. official said they have observed that “access to reproductive health services for young adults is more difficult than it used to be.” “Society is becoming more conservative, government is also more conservative. Providers of help are also becoming less proactive in providing reproductive health education and services to young adults,” he said.

Although in the cities and urban areas it is not such a big problem, in rural areas there are not enough services, he added.