Discussion of Turkish gov't reforms to enhance women's empowerment begins in Parliament
by Merve Aydoğan
ANKARAJan 20, 2016 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Merve Aydoğan
Jan 20, 2016 12:00 am
Parliament convened Tuesday to begin talks on reforms that introduce new rights and incentives for working mothers. Parliament will hold meetings on draft bills listed in the government program as well as the promises listed in its 2016 action plan. One of the prioritized draft bills aims to better women's empowerment. The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) previously indicated that women's employment rate increasing to 35 percent of the workforce was part of its 2023 goals, and it had further underlined that women's employment will allow Turkey to become the world's 10th largest global economy by 2023. However, the employment rate of women was only 30 percent according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OECD) 2014 Economic Survey of Turkey, which is lower than the OECD average of 58 percent.
The proposed draft bill aims to not only improve working standards, but also encourage women's empowerment. The proposed bill will allow female officials who use maternity leave without pay to get one promotion for each year they are away and allow them to raise their degree of employment for every three years they are away. The draft also allows female officers to be able to work for up to half a day of normal working hours without any interruption to their financial and social rights for 60 days after the birth of their first child, 120 days after the second child and for 180 days after additional births. There will be an additional one month added for multiple births. If a woman gives birth to a disabled child, the bill allows the woman to work part-time.
Regarding adoption, any parent who works as an official will have eight weeks of leave that will start as soon as the family receives the child, who must not be older than 3 years. Following a birth, female officers who use an additional 24 months of leave without pay after their maternity leave will have the choice to work part-time for two-and-a-half or five months. Additionally, both parents will be offered the right to paid part-time work until their child starts primary school.
For officers working part-time due to the birth of a child or adoption, but receive half of their financial and social, their premium payments and the actual service payment period will be calculated on a half-day basis. However, once an employee begins to work normal hours after the part-time working period ends, the monthly payment of insurance premiums or retirement deductions will be paid by the government by calculating half of the monthly salary. While childcare is at a low level in Turkey compared to the OECD average and continues to be identified as a constraint to women's participation in the labor force, another incentive the government proposes is increasing access to affordable, quality childcare.
Commenting on the draft bill and government's incentives to improve women's employment, Association of Women and Democracy (KADEM) Chairwoman Sare Aydın told Daily Sabah that while childcare has been one of the major factors negatively affecting women's employment rates, she said that according to a survey conducted by KADEM with 5,036 women in 26 provinces, more than 42 percent indicated that the legal regulations were not enough for them to work. "In this perspective, we believe that establishing policies on vacation days, flexible employment models, daycare opportunities and other incentives for increasing women's employment rates and having child are highly significant," Aydın said. "When observing [women's] empowerment in countries such as the U.S. and EU countries, women's main source of employment comes from part-time employment and flexible working hours. Thus, according to our research under 'Women in Changing Turkey,' we have found that regulations on childcare, increasing maternity leave as well as flexible employment models are the priority for Turkish women to work."