May 13, 2008
DRAFT ACT ON AMMENDMENTS TO TURKISH LABOR CODE AND SOME LAWS and INCREASING WOMEN’S EMPLOYMENT
It is very well known that women’s participation to waged and salaried work is very low. In addition to the problems of high unemployment and unregistered employment, the fact that the rate of women’s participation to labor force in Turkey is one of the lowest rates all around the world is one of the most basic problems of the labor market in Turkey. According to the data of January 2008, the participation of women in labor force is only 22.3%. With this ratio, Turkey has been on the 10th last degree among 130 member countries of UN and has latest degree among OECD countries according to data of 2000s with regard to women’s economic activity rate. It can be compared with regard to indicators such as average per capita income and the level of industrialization. Turkey is also considerably behind of some countries like Mexico and South Korea. This issue had been taken in hand by print media and TV channels for many times; unions of workers and employers, governmental institutions, international institutions, and EU experts had prepared reports and evaluations on the issue. A lot of segments of the society, including governmental bodies, underlined and still keep on underlining that this situation must be changed and increasing women’s employment is very much important for many aspects. However, despite all those things have been said, none of the governments had decisive and transformative attitudes, and implemented policies for increasing participation of women in labor market. AKP government has the same attitude.
Women’s organizations and feminists underlined for years that women have worked and keep on working at their homes and at the workplaces and fields of their husbands and fathers without any payment. They always repeated that there are two basic obstacles in front of increasing the participation of women in waged and salaried work: One of the obstacles is that women are held responsible for housework, childcare, care for elderly, ill and disabled persons in the family. The second obstacle is that women are subjected to gender discrimination in every aspect of life, starting from the day they were born. This is the reason why educational status of women is lower than men, why they cannot go out from their homes and work in a workplace, why they receive lower wages than men for the same value of work and cannot occupy positions they deserved, why they cannot participate to administrative boards of unions, why they become subjected to sexual harassment at the workplace… Of course this is also the reason why women suffer much more than men from the economic system that does not create new employment, which is a result of economic policies implemented. Most of the jobs created, especially the ones with good working conditions, are given to men. The situation of women that summarized here is deeply and clearly analyzed in our related works (see http://www.keig.org ).
We all know that while these obstacles still exist, the changes only for show do not work. We also know that the transformation cannot be realized as long as powerful policies, programs and campaigns struggling with those obstacles in a holistic way are not implemented. When we look at the amendments of AKP government to laws related to employees we see that: AKP government may be in a struggle for increasing employment rate however it is not a kind of increase in employment that we demand for. We do not want a country in which citizens work without any social security, in bad working conditions, with long working hours, and with low wage and salaries. Beyond this we say that in such an environment where women’s work load at homes and dependency to men are increasing, trying to increase the employment of women in numbers means to cause subordination of women more and more. The last situation of employment policies shows that we are not in a way for a social system that men and women can live in equal conditions and as free people.
First of all, the Draft Bill on Amendments to Labor Law and Some Laws has not been opened to public debate neither in the process of preparation nor in the process of coming to the agenda of the Turkish Grand National Assembly. This situation hinders the experiences and knowledge of persons and institutions working on the issues of labor market, social politics, women’s employment and youth employment to be reflected in the amendments and regulations, and therefore, makes the negative situation mentioned above continuous.
It is clearly wrong to have only the aim of lightening the employer’s burden when the arrangements are made. Employment policies should extend the exercise of working rights of women and men workers, and should support the opportunities for exercising social rights in working life. Increasing the employment of women and young people is not a matter of charity; it is an inseparable part of social equality, and the issues of increasing and improving welfare. This standpoint will also contribute to the solution of the chronic problems of labor market in our country. Especially the measures taken for the basic goal of decreasing unregistered employment requires that workforce should be supported as conscious citizens having alternatives in the employment relationship. In fact, the field of unregistered employment is a type of field that has supply as well as demand in our country, where unemployment rate is very high. Because of this, measures that will decrease the pressure of unemployment should be taken. Thus, in the general justification of the draft law, in addition to the aim of encouragement to employment, encouragement of women’s employment and empowerment of employees and labor market should have a place apparently.
Regulating Care Services
Researches and field studies in Turkey show that the main reason of low employment of women is the issue of care for children, elderly, disabled and ill persons in the family, which is solved through unpaid domestic labor of women. On this issue neither social state, nor employers and men take responsibility.
According to the Time Use Survey conducted by Turkish Statistical Institution (TUIK) in 2008, women in Turkey spend 5 hours in a day for such care services and domestic work. There are more than 20 million women who work 5 hours in a day and 35 hours in a week in total, in other words nearly a full time work, without any payment. 12 million of those women identify themselves as fulltime housewives. Turkey is one of the countries where unpaid labor of women has one of the highest and the number of preschool education and baby nurseries has one of the lowest ratio.
In the draft law, the only solution recommended for this huge problem in front of women’s employment is to give place to the implementation that gives the opportunity of outsourcing or subcontracting childcare services. Paying more attention to the target of lightening the burden of employers regarding employment than the target of empowering employment market and workers results in conflicting recommendations in the draft bill in general. The obligation of contribution to the social security insurance has been alienated from the employee to the Treasury and the obligation of opening baby nurseries and lactation rooms can be outsourced in order to decrease the employment obligations of employers and to encourage them to employ more women and young persons. This implementation creates unnecessary intermediaries in the system. Because of this, it will increase the total cost. At the same time, although it is said that employer will provide the baby nursery and lactation room services in the cheapest way, there is no regulation suggested on the quality of services and the distance of the service-providing-place to the workplace. While this amendment makes women’s employment cheaper for employer, it proposes an implementation that will make working life more difficult for women. For a woman worker returning to work after paid maternity leave that lasts at most 13 weeks, to have lactation room and baby nursery services inside the workplace in a specific quality is very much important regarding her decision whether to continue working or not and health of the mother and the baby.
Beyond these, regulations which will provide for the joint share of care services burden as a social responsibility by the public – employer – men, in other words all related segments of the society should become law. In this context, the article regulating the obligation of establishment of créches for workplaces having 150 and more women employees should be amended as to introduce this obligation for workplaces having 150 and more men and women employees. Regulating this obligation with regard to the number of women employees only is the reflection of the sexist mentality, which sees child care as a responsibility of women solely. With the amendment proposed above, this article which serves a base for discrimination against women in the recruitment processes will be amended in harmony with the equality article of the Turkish Constitution and also with international human rights conventions that Turkey is a state party.
Necessary regulations for establishment of créches and pre-school education institutions by municipalities, Ministry of National Education and, General Directorate on Social Services and Child Protection (GDSSCP) for 0-6 years old children of parents working in workplaces that are not within the scope of the said article with regard to the number of employees should be introduced immediately in harmony with European Union’s norms. The service provided by those institutions must be cheap and in good quality.
Parental leave should be legitimized immediately. By this way, parental responsibilities can be shared equally by men and women participating to the labor force.
For the care for ill and elderly persons, institutions providing care services should be widespread with the cooperation of municipalities and GDSSCP. Given services should be priced according to the income level of people who demand these types of services.
Reduction of Social Insurance Contributions
Although the reduction of social insurance contributions, which is regulated by the 3rd temporary article of the draft law, with the aim of increasing the employment of women (and young persons) is a positive attempt with regard to its aim, it involves lots of problems in different aspects and the said article should be amended in a way that will solve those problems. The probability of employers to choose young man workers instead of women is very high. Because of this, that article should be amended in a way that the advantages provided by reduction of social insurance contributions for women’s employment will be higher.
In addition to this, unemployment security is showed as the unique source of incentives for reduction of social insurance contributions. The Fund of Unemployment Security should not be wasted beyond its main function and the necessary funds needed for incentives of women’s and youth’s employment should be raised from other sources.
Other Necessary Regulations for Increasing Women’s Employment
In order to increase women’s employment, some types of income which are connected to women’s labor should be included to the related article of Law on Income Tax as types of income exempt from taxation. In addition, an amendment should be done to Law on Corporation Tax in the same way. Contributions to the services increasing women’s employment should be counted as one of the expenditures that will be exempt from taxation.
The Article 5 of the Labor Code No. 4857, which regulates equal treatment, should be amended to include clear definition of discrimination. The said article should also be amended to cover not only the ban of discrimination in “work relationship” but also in the “recruitment process”. The scope of the concept of discrimination should be identified in a broader manner as to include discrimination on the bases of sexual orientation.
Cancelation of the obligation of employers to establish sports facilities in workplaces of 500 and more employees means that the responsibility of the employer to employees turns into a salary matter solely and that a decrease in social responsibilities of employers will take place step by step. The necessity of sports facilities for families and children of employees must be taken into account and this responsibility of employers should not be canceled.
Regulations Regarding Employing Disabled People
In the draft law, disabled people are taken into consideration as a separate group with regard to quota implementation for disabled. However, this quota should be regulated as composing of 50% women and 50% men disabled. That, “it must be provided that half of the employees employed as disabled people should be women” must be included to the Article 30, which regulates the obligation to employ disabled people. Such kind of a regulation will help to facilitate the participation of disabled women, who forms a disadvantaged group in the society, to the labor force.
Relations with Subcontracted Firms
In the draft Law, the first article on combating unregistered employment gives the responsibility to the subcontracted firms in general. This is a necessary regulation, however not enough. The responsibility of combating unregistered employment should be shared between the subcontracted firm and the main employer. In addition, the obligation of declaration of the subcontracted firm should be an obligation for the main employer, too. By this way, the main employer firm would be able to contribute to the controlling process. In addition, employees working at the subcontracted firm should have the same social rights, and also the same opportunities to use social facilities provided by the main employer. This will be a step to improve security and health conditions at the workplaces with regard to the employees of subcontracted firms.
Activities of City Committees of Employment and The Turkish Employment Agency
Amendment of the Article 13 of Turkish Employment Law no. 4904, regarding the duties of city committees of employment is aimed by the Article 4 of the Draft Law. The City Committees of Employment, which are responsible for determining the employment policies in cities, are consist of only representatives of public and private sectors. These committees should be widening to include all social partners, and by this way their efficiency should be increased. The said article must be amended in a way that will provide the representation of unions and related NGOs in those committees. It must be provided that those committees take gender equality as a main component in their activities.
Gender equality should taken into consideration as a main criteria with regard to participation to the employment guaranteed training programs and access to consultancy services provided by Turkish Employment Agency. With this aim, regulations that will make Turkish Employment Agency spend more energy to reach women should be introduced.
Studies show that women’s awareness and knowledge on human rights and legal rights is one of the main necessities and prerequisites for the success of vocational training programs and other training programs for increasing women’s employment. Beyond a lack of skills necessary for participation to the labor force, the main restriction on women’s employment is the restrictions of gender stereotypes; violations of rights, violence, barriers in front of freedom of movement and not to have necessary knowledge and awareness to come out against those violations. Because of this, consulting services and training programs provided by Turkish Employment Agency must include an aspect of empowerment of women and awareness raising regarding gender stereotypes together with technical vocational skills.
Coordination should be provided between services and training programs provided by Turkish Employment Agency and women’s human rights training programs being implemented by community centers of General Directorate on Social Services and Child Protection and family consultancy centers. By this way, the efforts of the Turkish Employment agency will be more efficient.