Women and the career of motherhood in Turkey

Women and the career of motherhood in Turkey

Turkish Health Minister Mehmet Müezzinoğlu recently visited the parents of one of the first babies born in 2015 in Istanbul, sparking the first major debate of the year. During his visit, Müezzinoğlu said women should make motherhood their essential career, stirring reactions from all segments of society, particularly from women’s associations.

So, what is the situation of the “national will” that the ruling Justice and Development (AKP) government refers to at every opportunity in terms of women, family and children? The political authority that tries to interfere in households at every opportunity - continuously saying things like “have three children,” “have five children,” and “the best career is motherhood” - what are its reflections in Turkey’s social structure and demographics? What is the situation of the family in our society that is so proud to be conservative? Are marriage and family still blessed values? Is there a change in this area? What do the statistics say?

An article on “changing consumers and resisting customs,” published in the November issue of the magazine MediaCat, has some answers. The piece considers the TGI Research Company’s analysis of the changing Turkish citizen from 2001 to 2014.

Looking over the years, we can see that the number of university graduates in Turkey’s urban population has almost doubled. In 2001, seven out of every 100 people were university graduates; in 2014 this figure was 12 out of every 100 people. As for women, in 2001 five out of every 100 women were university graduates; this figure had only risen to eight in 2014.

Has women’s participation in the workforce increased? Looking at full-time working ratios, in the past 13 years there has been no significant change in the ratio of women and men in full-time jobs, according to the TGI data.

However, when we look inside households, we can see that families in Turkey are moving away from the traditional family structure with each passing day. In the urban population, the number of people who live alone has doubled since 2001. In the same period, the rate of childless families has gone up from 10 percent to 12 percent.

The most important value change is in the rate of extended families with three generations living together in the same home, which has gone down from 10 percent to 6 percent. The average number of people living in an urban household in 2001 was 4.2, while today it is 3.8.

The rate of those who think that the “head of the family” is the man fell by 16 percent in the same period. Meanwhile, the number of those wishing for a “life-long marriage” has also fallen, from 73 percent in 2007 to 43 percent today. In other words, contrary to many people's expectations, the sanctity of marriage is increasingly being questioned in today's Turkey.

Another noteworthy change is the decline in the number of people choosing to spend their free time at home with their family. Individuals now appear to be going out more, increasingly in central areas where consumption is intense.

When we look at Turkey’s population, the most dreadful statistical change in recent years has occurred in the rate of female murders. According to statistics from the Justice Ministry, murders of women between 2002 and 2009 increased 1,400 percent.

A large portion of these murders of women are over women wanting to divorce due to domestic violence.

But what about divorce rates? According to the Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK), the total number of divorces in the country increased from 91,994 in 2001 to 125,305 in 2013.

On motherhood, we can see that fertility has gone down from 2.38 in 2001 to 2.07 in 2013. In 2001, women in Turkey gave birth to 1.32 million babies. In 2014, this figure had dropped to 1.28 million.

In sum, the world is changing, and Turkish people are also changing. Traditions are resisting change, but regardless of politicians trying to turn issues into polemics about women, their policies do not correspond with society and their impact is lessening. At least, that’s what the statistics seem to suggest.