Yet another move to keep Turkish women at home

Yet another move to keep Turkish women at home

How come your wife is not working, I asked him; surprised to hear that his wife was unemployed. He explained that as a high school graduate, the wage that his wife could earn would barely cover the daycare of their two kids. “It wouldn’t be worth the trouble,” he said.

Under the conditions of Istanbul, she would spend two hours in the traffic each day and add to this the stress of the job. And then add to this the housework she has to do when she comes home. Why bother, really, if all the money she could make will barely cover the daycare? Who can blame her? I can’t.

I rather blame those well-educated women who quit their jobs once they get married to wealthy men. Some of them have master’s degrees. Some speak two languages. Most are the fiercest critic of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s policies. But ironically, it seems they have listened to his advice and quit their job in order to… raise children. Put like that, they obviously won’t accept it; which leaves the other option: laziness. They would not accept this either. By the way, when I say they are the fiercest critic of Erdoğan (as well as of headscarved women), what I mean is that all their opposition is rhetorical. While the headscarved women (who they hate to see around) would work door to door during electoral campaigns, their opposition activities are largely limited to voting, then talking among each other and mailing to each other the articles in the newspapers with the severest yet lousiest insults to the Prime Minister.

Thank God; they constitute a clear minority among women university graduates. Seventy percent of women with university degrees participate in the Turkish labor force; a ratio well ahead of the OECD’s average.

What makes me write all this are the current plans to lengthen the paid maternity leave allowance. This might seriously hinder women’s workforce participation, as some of the employers’ associations have warned that this will lead to discrimination as the preference would be to hire male employees.
For those who might not be familiar with the issue; let me remind you that women’s participation in the labor force is a mere 30 percent. This is way below world standards. There is a specific correlation between a country’s level of development and the ratio of women present in the labor force.

This fact somehow escapes the attention of Prime Minister Erdoğan. It is a well-known fact that the prime minister is sort of obsessed with economic growth and development. He has dedicated himself to the economic development and nothing seems to stand in his way. As we have seen on many occasions, environmental concerns or historic, archeological legacies are just a nuisance for him.

In this respect, one would expect to see his government spend efforts to increase women’s participation in the labor force. Indeed, there has been an increase during the past 10 years of the Justice and Development Party’s governance. But the main reason is attributed to the economic growth and particularly the service sector where it is easier for women to find jobs. It is not certain whether the few incentives that have been introduced by the government have played a role in that outcome, according to experts.

On the contrary, the prime minister is on the record for seeing first a mother when looking at women. He has been asking families to have at least three children. In the absence of a policy that aims to facilitate physical and economic access to daycare, this practically means taking women out of the labor force. 

Despite the direct linkage between economic development and women’s workforce participation, the prime minister falls victim to his Islamic ideological world view. 

In the not so distant past, the AKP was praised for not letting its policies be tainted by Islamic ideology. This is no longer the case. It is a pity that policies with a direct effect on women are shaped under a heavy ideological prism.