Making Economies Work for Women: Female Labour Force Participation in Turkey

Feride İnan & Güneş Aşık



Presently, Female Labor Force Participation (hereafter cited as FLFP) in Turkey is exceptionally low by international standards and had been in long-term decline until recently. In 2012, the female participation rate at 29,5 % was the lowest in the OECD and second lowest amongst G20 economies; the employment rate stood at 26,3 %. Time series evidence suggests that FLFP in Turkey has been following a U-shaped pattern reflecting the relationship between FLFP and the changing composition of the labor force away from agriculture towards nonagricultural activities (Uraz et al 2009, Dayioglu & Kırdar 2009, Erman 1998, SPO 2007, Taymaz 2009, World Bank 2009, 2004). The upward trend in FLFP since 2005 is driven by a growing number of women in salaried work that started to increase faster than the number of women working in agriculture. Between 2004 and 2012, many women moved out of agricultural and informal sector jobs to the formal economy although informality is still very high for women at 54% in 2012 (TurkStat Labor Force Statistics).

In spite of progress, rising FLFP has not necessarily promoted gender equality or empowerment for women. More women than men continue to be unemployed and the underemployment rate of women is approaching that of their male counterparts. Moreover, gender inequality in the labor market can be observed in the vertical and horizontal segregation by gender. The movement from agriculture to mainly services sector (which now dominates the female labor market) has not necessarily translated into better jobs, more productive employment or higher income for women. In spite of growing female employment in the services sector, males continue to be disproportionately represented in higher end positions while women work in low paying or in part-time jobs (Dayioglu & Kırdar 2009). The only occupational group where women are at an advantage with respect to wage levels compared to men is in managerial positions. Yet, very few women reach such positions and enjoy high wages. Even within major occupational groups there are significant wage gaps in spite of the fact that unequal pay is prohibited by both the Labor Law and the Constitution (‘the equal pay for equal work’ principle).

Making Economies Work for Women: Female Labour Force Participation in Turkey