NGOs Women for Women’s Human Rights (WWHR)-New Ways and the Platform for Women’s Labor and Employment (KEİP) are holding meetings today and tomorrow in İstanbul called the “Adaptation of Working and Family Life for Social Gender Equality,” expecting an international audience. Participants from Turkey, South Korea, Sweden, the Netherlands, France, Spain and Mexico will brainstorm solutions at the Armada Hotel in İstanbul’s Sultanahmet district.
“The most important barrier to women’s participation in the labor force is the burden of care for children and the elderly, so the project aims to establish a legal and institutional mechanism to distribute this burden among women, men, other family members, the state and the employer,” the WWHR said in a press statement issued on Monday.
According to the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Gender Inequality Index, Turkey ranks 123rd among 128 countries when it comes to women’s labor participation. Its labor participation rate for men is close to that of the countries of the European Union and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
However the EU’s Lisbon Strategy requires Turkey to have 60 percent of women in the workforce by 2010. Turkey has only managed to raise this rate to 22 percent.
İpek İlkkaracan of (WWHR)-New Ways regards women’s lack of presence in the labor market to the traditional sexual division of labor, not to “low levels of education among women” as government authorities tend to assert.
“Women’s absence in the labor market in Turkey is a multi-dimensional phenomenon of gender inequality that simply cannot be reduced to the problem of education, as authorities are keen to do. Women for Women’s Human Rights had published a research report back in 1998 where women’s lack of presence in the labor market was diagnosed primarily as a problem of what we called the traditional sexual division of labor: that women are responsible for looking after the house and the children, while man are assigned to the role of breadwinners. The report points out that such a gendered division of labor leads to women’s absence not only in the labor market but also in politics,” she told Today’s Zaman.
Statistics show that a woman in Turkey spends an average of five hours per day for the care of family members, while this is less than an hour for men. (WWHR)-New Ways and KEİP point out that care of children and the elderly has been resolved by the unpaid labor of women who, as a result, have been prevented from participating in the labor force as paid employees.