Podcast 95 - Work-Family life balance

10 Feb 2014

Listen to our 95th episode (in Turkish):

Listen on:


UNDP Turkey: This is the New Horizons podcasts of United Nations Development Programme Turkey. In this part, we will talk about a report called “Work-Family Balance: Recent Discussions in Turkey”, which addresses the relationship between women’s employment and gender equality. The report is published by ANKA Women Research Center. Our guest is Işıl Kurnaz who is one of the writers of the report. Işıl Kurnaz is an expert in ANKA and Research Assistant in Gazi University. Welcome. 

Işıl Kurnaz: Thank you.

UNDP Turkey: You prepared the report with your colleague, Duygu Atalay who is a researcher in Gazi University. It is the second report published by ANKA Women Research Center which is founded in Ankara. This report shows us that women’s employment rate is higher in rural areas compared to urban areas and Turkey has the last place in Europe in women’s employment. The title of your report is “Reconciliation of work and family life” Let’s start with what you mean by this term.

Işıl Kurnaz: Yes, as you know, women have increasingly become employers both at home and also at work, especially with modernization. Hence, when we talk about work and family life, we talk about two battle fronts for women and we try to draw a general framework to decrease the conflict between them.

UNDP Türkiye: Actually, the first report published by ANKA is standing on the table. You underlined the same problem with the report titled “Women’s invisible labor: The Second Shift”.

Işıl Kurnaz: In that report, we identified the situation of employed women who work at home and within labor market. We did the study with 1000 women and we come up with some hopeful outcomes which I want to talk about. As far as we see, the roles of men and women are now less dependent to gender stereotypes. Especially in child care, we see that men are more involved than before and men are more active in child care at home. Apart from that, unfortunately, there are still conflicts which women confront both in and outside of their homes, and this leads women to drop out unwillingly from labor market after they get married or have a child. In our report, our starting point was this basic problem and what could be the effects of the draft law on women’s employment which is on the government’s agenda.

UNDP Türkiye: You talk about the measures which are planned to be taken in Turkey in order to encourage women’s employment. I mentioned it at the beginning, Turkey is the last country in Europe in women’s employment and but the important thing here is that the women’s employment rate is higher in the rural parts of Turkey compared to the cities, right?

Işıl Kurnaz: This is related to some of our structural problems and structural properties concerning the labor market. Firstly, let me say this, women’s employment in Turkey is 50 per cent of Europe’s average. So the numbers are really low.

UNDP Türkiye: We have to double just to reach the average.

Işıl Kurnaz: We can say so. The closest country is, I think, Mexico which has a participation of 46 per cent. It is counted among OECD countries. Apart from that, what are the problems in Turkey? Despite there is a decrease in employment due to dissolution in agriculture, agricultural sector is still common in Turkey and it is mainly located in rural areas. Hence women’s employment is relatively high in these regions. Because they are unpaid family workers as we name them in theoretical base. Despite having no income or a small income, the women work alongside with their spouse or family and they are excluded from the work force when they migrate to urban areas because they do not have enough qualifications for jobs in the cities or they became a domestic worker. If you take a look at TURKSTAT’s statistics, you can see that the share of the women that are housewives is very high in the women who are not involved in labor market.    

UNDP Türkiye: The average on women’s employment in OECD countries is 62 percent. In Turkey, the rate of women’s employment is 31 per cent. There is a decrease by half. Every 7 women out of ten are staying in their homes in Turkey. The EU average is 65 per cent which is higher than the OECD countries. According to the latest gender inequality index of World Economic Forum, Turkey is 124th country. In 2013 Human Development Report, Turkey is 68th out of 148 countries and UNDP uses the employment criterion as an indicator. Now let’s talk about your report “Work-Family Balance: Recent Discussions in Turkey” and your important findings. By the way, for those who want to download your report, you can download the report from your website as well as the previous report from ankakadin.org. If you would like to join the discussion, you can share your opinions on Twitter with #yeniufuklar hashtag. According to the information on your report, the lowest rate of women’s employment among 33 European countries is in Turkey. You argue that the most important reason for this is inadequate social policies which do not balance the work and family life. In this sense, you especially point out the insufficiency of institutionalization in childcare services and there are other suggestions too. Why are the legal regulations insufficient?

Işıl Kurnaz: The most important reason why women are not working is the lack of work-family balance and there are socio-cultural reasons at its background. Traditions, prejudices about women and the thought about women belong to their home or women should take care their own child are the reasons why Turkish women’s participation to employment is very low. Surprisingly, we are behind of many Middle Eastern countries if we take a look at the participation of women in employment. Whereas even in societies which are considered as more religious, more gendered or more conservative, there is a need for practices in order for women to be included in work force. If we look at Turkey, the most important issues for women are how to nurse their child. If a woman is working after having a child, she still worries about her child. This may result in the decrease of her efficiency. So employers think that women will be less efficient after they have a child and not chosen in the first place so they turn into secondary labor force. So why the practices and precautions are are insufficient in Turkey? Because the child care services has never become an important topic for the agenda of both public and private sector. Let’s bring together like that, are there any regulations? Yes there is but in private sector, for employers to open a kindergarden or any service for childcare, they have to employ at least 150 women with child. In Turkey, aside from women and take a look at total count of workers, there is not much firms that have 150 employees and the condition for 150 women workers, you cannot get a practical result automatically.

UNDP Türkiye: Actually it is a converse approach isn’t it? If there is a daycare, maybe there will be 50 per cent women workers, but stating if there are 50 per cent women, then the daycare to be opened…

Işıl Kurnaz: 150. The count of person.

UNDP Türkiye: As it is not provided, so it is a converse approach.

Işıl Kurnaz: Absolutely. There is no such obligation in public sector.

UNDP Türkiye: We mentioned before, you talked about the measures that the government plans to take. The daycare holds a critical place among them, doesn’t it?

Işıl Kurnaz: Yes, as far as we know there is, as it is featured in the public. We haven’t seen the draft but it seems as an important issue. As far as we know, the obligation will be for both private and public sector institutions. Of course, there will be a criterion of the number of employees but the important thing here is not only to open a kindergarden because it is a legal obligation, but also to ensure that this kindergarden will provide a qualified service. So we think that when women are working, they should not have worries on their minds about their children. We have a suggestion about this subject. If there will be an obligation for public sector, it should be in accordance with the number of employees in the public institutions. But the number should be not only the number of women because there are also fathers and in this way the child care will be presented as a parenthood duty, as a task shared among parents, the father and the mother. In addition, the private institutions that are in the same area can come together voluntarily and they can do it through incentives and discounts. We think that a new source of employment would be provided as well as because women would be employed in this field since it is a matter of doing childcare by another woman in case of it is not done by mother in our country.  Hence, the government would probably make legal regulations by taking these into consideration.

UNDP Türkiye: There is one more question that I want you to answer briefly. There is also a concern about measures that are considered. You also mention in your report. You say while legal regulations have an aim to encourage the employment of women, there is a possibility to affect employer’s will to select a woman worker in a negative way. How can the equilibrium be balanced?

Işıl Kurnaz: We can say that when the draft law was brought to the agenda, two important actors made statements. One of those actors was the head of the Ankara Chamber of Industry and other was the head of the Istanbul Chamber of Industry and they directly stated that if the legislation would be passed as it is, this would mean hindering women’s employment, so we do not hire women workers in any case. So these social actors, especially the employers should be absolutely involved in this issue. Although you take good measures and make good laws, there are still some social roots and problems and the discriminatory approach of employers for women should be reduced. We think that if a set of studies and profound analysis is done and codes behind the issue is resolved, an appropriate structure might be established. Otherwise, employers might prefer not to hire women.

UNDP Türkiye: We hope all these would be done so as the measures would not backfire. Thank you very much Ms. Kurnaz for your participation. In this episode we have talked about ANKA Women Research Center`s report of “Work-Family Balance: Recent Discussions in Turkey” and our guest was Işıl Kurnaz who is from Gazi University and one of the experts of ANKA. We come to the end of the New Horizons brought to you by UNDP Turkey. This program has been recorded at the studio of Radyo İlef of Ankara University Communications Department. You can follow our program on iTunes, Audioboo and Soundcloud in podcast format, on FM frequency in İstanbul, on Açık Radyo (Open Radio) on internet, on nearly fifty Police radios, on MYCY radio from Cyprus and also on university radios in our broadcasting network and on tr.undp.org. Our user name for social media is undpturkiye. Hope to see you soon, good bye!









In this part, we talk about a report called “Work-Family Life Balance: Recent Discussions in Turkey”, which addresses the relationship between women’s employment and gender equality.



Işıl Kurnaz, Research Assistant in Gazi University


Read the transcript