Such a generous bill for women sparks doubts

Such a generous bill for women sparks doubts

The Women Employment Law is on the agenda; it could pass in parliament any moment. Women in this country, you know, are regularly being encouraged to give birth. The law enables new mothers to work part-time and receive a full salary.

Normally, one’s first reaction to this would be “wow, oh God, how generous.” Indeed, at first glance it looks as if it is a clause that protects women. However, there is a “but.”

I spoke to the head of the Women Entrepreneurs Association of Turkey (KAGİDER) Gülden Türktan on the upcoming draft on Women Employment Law. Türktan said we will all see whether or not this bill will increase or decrease female employment. At present there are many questions about the bill, she said, including the starting and finishing time, lunch, transportation and - most important of all - will employers choose to hire men instead of women in these circumstances?

This part-time fully paid worker is an extra cost for the employer. While transportation is provided for full-time workers, the employer will have to provide extra transportation for, say, three pregnant women and a new mother. Türktan says this will increase the cost of women workers, so when the cost increases like this, women’s opportunities to work will decrease.

Under these conditions, I asked what the real aim behind this bill was.

Türkan replied: “The president has a very clear discourse: He is saying ‘give birth to children. The more children you have, the more opportunities Turkey will have.’ As women give birth to more children, the working population will be more than the non-working population and this will make the country grow economically. This is their policy. But actually, there is a potential for non-working women in our country. If we can transfer this potential to the workforce, then the economy would grow. Of course, nobody says this or is able to say these things to the president. So he continues to say, ‘Women should give birth to three children.’”

 “But the model we are suggesting is applied all over the world. Including Japan, many countries have increased their development this way,” Türktan said. “If you are able to draw non-working women into an active economy, it would be beneficial to the country. You would be able to use the passive and non-productive portion of the population.”

Turkey is at a junction, she believes. One path is to say to women: “Do not work or anything. Stay at home, have children, take care of children. Help Turkey develop in this way.” Or, there is another option: “Dear women staying at home without working. Come and join the economy. You will also produce and as a result, Turkey will develop.”

I asked her whether this political power wanted to design a society where women are at home and left behind; and whether the intention was to draw women away from active work and pacify them. Türktan argued that there was no answer to this because it depended on society’s response. “Let us wait and see how society will respond. We do not know yet. Will young women really have children one after the other as the president wants? Actually, there has been a slight increase in the birth rate; it was heading below 2.0; now it is up to 2.2 … Will the young population of our country say ‘Come on, let’s get married immediately and have children?’ Or will the resist to stay in the workforce,” she said.

I was curious whether a bill prepared to increase women’s fertility would have any benefits for women. Türktan thinks it was highly probable that there will be no benefits for women. “I cannot say anything without an economic model or any existing research. But there is this reality: Such a generous law for women that grants so many rights to women in terms of birth giving, why was this not discovered in any other country? Why is it going into effect for the first time ever in our country?” she said.

Yes, this type of law is not present in any other country. Not even one example as generous as this exists…