Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Addendum to Hurriyet column, A woman scorned

Before I start, I should say I am very pleased with Turkish media for once. All the major dailies had super-duper coverage of International Women's Day. For example, my own Hurriyet Daily News & Economic Review had a nice complementary article to my column, concentrating on global comparisons. And I even discovered a blog called Turkish Women's International Network.

One point I could not discuss in my column, due to the usual space constraint, is the remarkable decline in Turkish women's labor force participation. As late as early 1990s,  female LFP was at 50 percent. The most common explanation for the decline is the migration from rural to urban areas, which turned women working in the fields into women staying at home all day. But I doubt that explanation is sufficient. Reader "Me", commenting on my column at the Daily News web site, relates the decline to "the rise of religious thinking in the government". While I would not put it in those very words, I agree that the rise in conservatism has something to do with the fall in female LFP as well. Actually, that's one of the findings of one of the background papers of the World Bank study I refer to in the column.

Speaking of comments, I strongly recommend you to look at the comments to the column; they are all very interesting. The final comment, again by Me, is espcially important. By noting that the only solution is education, she has revealed a gap, not in my thinking, but in my explanation: Although I never said it explicitly, she is right that my economics-based solutions would work more effectively with poor, uneducated women. That's because it is those women who suffer most and have most to gain from these programs: Their unemployment is higher and LFP much lower, as documented in the World Bank study. This is not to say that white collar, educated women are not (upps, double negation) subject to discrimination, but they are relatively much better off than their uneducated counterparts. But that is another reason to argue for education as the only solution...

Finally, as for my suggestion of quotas for women political candidates, it seems that some parties will have self-imposed quotas in the June general elections.

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