Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Unemployment Numbers Do Not Bode Well for AKP

More children when unemployment is rising is a very bad idea. Simple as that.

From Gareth Jenkins:

The latest employment figures released by the Turkish Statistical Institute (TURKSTAT) suggest that, despite six years of robust macro-economic growth, Turkey is failing to create enough jobs for its growing population.

On March 17, TURKSTAT reported that, at the end of 2007, the unemployment rate in Turkey stood at 10.6%, only marginally above the figure of 10.5% at year-end 2006. The unemployment rate among young people is reported to have risen from 20.3% at the end of 2006 to 20.6% at the end of 2007. However, a closer scrutiny of TURKSTAT’s data suggests that the true rate of unemployment is considerably higher, particularly among young people.

. . . .

One of the main reasons is a dramatic decline in female participation in the workforce. Female representation has increased in some of the professions. For example, in Turkey, women now account for 36% of all university teaching staff, 31% of architects, 29% of doctors, and 26% of lawyers (Dunya, March 8). However, overall female participation in the workforce stood at 22.2% at end-2007, less than half the rate for the population as a whole and down from 34.1% in 1990 (Anka Haber Ajansi, March 6).

There is little question that many in the ruling Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) believe that a woman’s place is in the home rather than the workplace. The current Council of Ministers has only one female member and, perhaps predictably, she is State Minister Responsible for Women’s Affairs. Very few of the wives and daughters of the leading members of the AKP have careers. On March 7, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan infuriated women’s groups by calling on Turkish women to have at least three children (Radikal, Hurriyet, CNNTurk, March 8).

However, such conservative attitudes are not, by themselves, sufficient to explain the decline in the number of women in the workforce. The main reason appears to be urbanization. Traditionally, most of the agricultural work in Turkey has done by women, usually on small, family-owned plots of land. Even today, 58.5% of all working women are believed to be employed in agriculture (Dunya, March 8). However, urbanization has meant that a higher proportion of the Turkish female proportion than ever before now live in cities. Although men may have been prepared for their womenfolk to do most of the work in the relative privacy of the family fields, they are often less keen for them to work outside the home in the cities; where most of the paid manual labor is, in any case, done by males.

But the latest TURKSTAT statistics suggest that the AKP’s failure to create sufficient jobs for more than a small proportion of the young people entering the job market each year could also have other social and political repercussions. Although the Turkish political agenda is currently dominated by the case before the Turkish Constitutional Court for the AKP’s closure (see EDM, March 17), the government is nevertheless aware that ultimately its political future probably depends more on its ability to deliver on the economy, particularly by creating jobs. For the moment at least, there is no question that it is failing.

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