Recently released employment statistics indicate that the economic crisis in Turkey has an especially grave effect on the employment conditions for women in Turkey.
As Turkey’s politics have been gradually drawn into a crisis since 2013, the economic performance of the country has also been affected. Devaluation of the currency, degradation of the country’s rating by international agencies, a decreasing industrial production and a crumbling tourism sector are some of the many challenges amid the current economic climate.
Since about a year ago, unemployment levels have been rising as well. In the past year, the overall unemployment rate increased from 10.6 per cent to 11.8 per cent (excluding the agricultural employment), while women’s unemployment rate reached 16 per cent with an increase of almost 3 per cent. The increase among men remained much lower from 9.3 per cent to 9.8 per cent within the same period. The unemployment rate among women between the ages of 15-24 has increased from 23.1 per cent in 2015 to 27.1 per cent in 2016. 34.2 per cent of all women are neither employed nor continuing their education.
Women’s participation in the labour force, which was 36 per cent in 1999, first went down to 23 per cent in 2005 following the first years of the AKP rule, and did only reach 33 per cent in the following decade. This rate is approximately 20 per cent lower than European countries like Netherlands or Germany, 10 per cent lower than Greece and Mexico, and 7 per cent higher than India with the figures of 2014.
Prof. Gülay Toksöz from Ankara University pointed to the contrast between these figures and the situation in the EU and OECD countries. Toksöz also adds that these figures do not reflect the actual situation accurately, as they exclude those who are not registered as “actively seeking for jobs” yet state that they are ready to work if they had jobs (1.4 millon), and who indeed outnumber those registered as unemployed (1.2 million).
Toksöz explained the high rate of female unemployment as result of both macroeconomic and socio-cultural factors. Structural limits like a low growth rate and the fact that leading sectors of the Turkish economy like construction virtually exclude women, decrease the chances of women—whose options are limited to services and the relatively stagnant textile and food sectors—to get jobs. As a result, said Toksöz, while the number of unemployed men kept stabile between 2004-2015, that of women doubled.
The socio-cultural factors play a role as well. Sectors other than the textile and food industry are often considered to be not appropriate for women. Young mothers often leave the job market after they have children, because of the cultural bias or due to weak public social services, such as affordable day care for women.
Toksöz emphasizes that women are not rigidly excluded from the job market, yet integrated in a disadvantageous way as a flexible work force. This is proven by the fact that the numbers of unregistered employment among women rose by nearly half a million between 2004 and 2015, as opposed to a decrease over 600.000 among men.