Report: Workforce inches toward gender equality

July 31, 2012, Tuesday/ 15:52:00

The representation of women in Turkey's workforce has increased, albeit slowly, according to a recent Bahçeşehir University Center for economic and Social Research (BETAM) report.

“According to data released by the Turkish Statistics Institute [TurkStat] and isolated for seasonal effects by BETAM, women's participation in the labor market has increased and, among those outside the workforce, the number of female homemakers has decreased,” the report states.

Between January 2005 and April 2012, the participation of women in the workforce increased from 23.3 to 29.1 percent, BETAM found in its report published last week.

The report also states the number of women reporting to have left the workforce because they were overwhelmed with household duties decreased from 12.913 million in January 2005 to 12.127 million in April 2012.

Despite Turkey's slow but stable increase in women's participation in its workforce, the country continues to fall significantly behind other developed nations, according to BETAM.

The participation of women in the workforce remains low at 27.4 percent, according to TurkStat 2011 data.

Not there yet

Zeynep dereli, managing director of APCO Worldwide and a director of the Atlantic Council's Black Sea Energy and Economic Forum, echoes women's rights activists in saying the struggle for gender equality in the workforce is far from over.

“I am indeed really happy to hear that women's participation overall has increased, if the rates are indeed accurate,” Dereli told Today's Zaman on Tuesday. “We still have a long way to go if we want to reach the levels of women's workforce participation rates in the developed world.”

Dereli says she wishes the Turkish government, as it has done with the economy and other fields for the country's centennial, had adopted an action plan to tackle gender inequality in the workforce.

Not only is a more gender equal workforce a matter of human rights, it also makes pure economic sense.

Research from the World Bank, the United Nations and Goldman Sachs demonstrates that gender equality helps reduce poverty and ensure sustainable growth, according to Dereli.

“A recent paper from Goldman Sachs found that closing the gap between male and female employment rates would have huge implications for the global economy, boosting American gross domestic product [GDP] by as much as 9 percent, eurozone GDP by 13 percent and Japanese GDP by 16 percent,” Dereli said.

For the situation of women's economic participation to continue to improve, activists and business leaders alike agree obstacles like women's "double burden" of domestic and work responsibilities must be addressed.

“We need to increase preschool childcare options as well as elderly care as those responsibilities lie with women in our country,” Dereli said.

Low female labor force participation is not an issue exclusive to Turkey, of course, and manifests itself as disparities in wages, occupational segregation and women's exclusion from leadership positions around the world. On a global scale, Dereli calls for the education of the public on the benefits of female empowerment. For Turkey, Dereli says the Religious Affairs Directorate as well as the Ministry of Education should take up that mantle.

Correction: The original version of this article included a statement that drew attention to an apparent contradiction between the BETAM report and the most recent Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey (TEPAV) report, which finds the number of women who left the workforce to become homemakers in the last year increased. What appeared to be a contradiction, however, is a typo in BETAM’s original research brief that since the publication of this article has been corrected in both the brief and this article.

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