JOINT PRESS RELEASE OF WOMEN’S ORGANIZATIONS
The Turkish Confederation of Employer Unions—TISK—and the Human Resources Department of the newspaper Hurriyet organized the “Women’s Employment Summit” on February 10-11, 2006, bringing the highly important issue of women’s employment to the attention of the public.
TISK gathers employer organizations under one roof, and we, the undersigned women’s organizations view their initiative as a positive development.
However, it has come to our attention that the experiences, knowledge, and demands of the women’s organizations, academicians, and activists that have been working on this issue for years, were to a great extent excluded from both the process of organizing this meeting, as well as the final declaration that resulted from it.
Dated February 13, 2006, the final declaration of the “Women’s Employment Summit” does state that the issue of women’s employment is a multifaceted problem; however, the suggested proposals reflect a restricted outlook that is considerably far removed from a women’s perspective, and the declaration excludes proposals that can form the basis of improving women’s employment.
We, the undersigned women’s organizations, argue that the primary reasons why the rate of women’s employment in Turkey is the lowest among OECD countries are as follows:
1. The inadequacy of government-implemented macro-economic policies in creating systematic and secure employment, and the fact that they lack of a gender perspective, exacerbate the problems women experience both when they join, and after they have joined the professional life. Each year unemployment levels continue to rise increasingly, and women’s unemployment is at a much higher level in comparison to men’s.
2. Gender-based discrimination, still ongoing in societal life, causes women to be viewed as secondary citizens in all areas of life, from education to the labor market and political representation; and within this framework, men’s income is considered to be primary, and women’s income as secondary. Both inter-familial and professional relationships are structured on this current division of roles.
3. The fact that services such as caring for children, the sick, and the elderly, and housework are seen primarily as women’s responsibility within the framework traditional gender-based division of labor in the family comprises the most crucial obstacle women encounter when they enter professional life and advance their career.
4. Women face employment barriers that are a result of the constraints on women’s mobility arising from patriarchal structures of family and society.
5. As is the case within the family, gender-based discrimination continues to be highly pervasive in professional life also. Jobs available to women are often low-wage jobs under demanding work conditions that offer no social security.
6. Mechanisms that will initiate efforts to prevent the discrimination women face when they enter the workforce and begin to work professionally; that will establish gender equality and monitor developments in this area are non-existent.
In the final declaration of TISK’s “Women’s Employment Summit” it is said that one of the main reasons women’s employment is low is because women’s organizations are in disarray. However, currently in Turkey the agenda of policies on equality are for the most part determined by autonomous women’s organizations, and there is a strong women’s movement that spends effort toward the establishment of gender equality. During the process whereby the new Turkish Civil and Penal Codes were adopted, women’s organizations not only exhibited solid and democratic collaborative efforts, but also achieved significant gains as an advocacy group. Presently, women’s organizations work in unity and solidarity on numerous activities, ranging from increasing women’s representation in politics to violence against women; from empowering women in terms of economics to the protection and improvement of human rights. The membership of women’s organizations in Turkey to the European Women’s Lobby is the product of the establishment of such nation-wide collaboration and solidarity, and its subsequent reflection on the international arena.
For years now, as women’s organizations, activists and academics with a women’s perspective, we have been collaborating in Turkey to formulate demands for the improvement of women’s employment and working together to see these demands are met.
Our demands are as follows:
1. Generating new fields of employment and ensuring that they are accessible to women is one of the primary responsibilities of both the state and the private sector. To this end, active employment policies aiming to reduce unemployment must be formulated, which must also include a comprehensive women’s employment policy. To ensure the formulated policies are implemented as soon as possible, a plan comprising concrete and time-specific objectives must be drawn up; and to put the policies on equality into effect, relevant organizations and mechanisms must be readied in terms of financial and human resources, and separate funds must be allocated from the budget to this end.
2. A Standing Committee on Gender Equality must be formed in parliament and this committee must assess all legislation brought to the Turkish Grand National Assembly from a perspective of gender equality.
3. The responsibilities of women and men must be reviewed from the perspective of gender equality and mechanisms that aim to change existing stereotypes must be generated. Within this context, responsibilities associated with women such caring for children, the sick and the elderly must be accepted as a social responsibility that men are expected to bear equally, and resources from the public and the private sectors must be mobilized for the provision of these services. Within this context;
• To support parents to equally share all responsibilities relating to childcare, the parental leave act must pass through parliament as soon as possible;
• Legislation dictates that a nursing room and a daycare center shall be established at the workplace if there are more than 150 women workers employed. Regulations passed in relation to this issue and in accordance with the Labor Law still consider childcare to be solely women’s responsibility. Recommendations;
a. Recognizing that in Turkey a great majority of businesses employ less than 9 workers, and as a means to ensure that children of all the workers can benefit from daycare services, an approach that takes the responsibility of childcare away from employers and women must be adopted, and regulations that hold not only the employers, but also local administrations responsible for the provision of this service must be passed; in addition, municipalities must be empowered financially and structurally so that they can in fact provide this service. While such regulations are being decided on, the obligations of the employer must be determined according to total number of workers employed.
b- Until this is achieved, the workplaces of employers that have more than one workplace within the boundaries of a single municipality must be considered one workplace in terms of their obligations to establish a nursing room and daycare center.
c- In addition, employers in industrial zones must be made liable to establish a joint nursing room and daycare center independent of the total number of workers employed, and regulations must be passed to hold local administrations liable in contributing to these efforts.
• Within this context, passing regulations that provide women with maternity leave will not suffice. It is necessary to ensure employers provide on-the-job training that will enable women to adjust to the changed work conditions once they return from maternity leave and guarantee that women work in the same positions as before, or their equivalent. To this end, amendments must be made to the Labor Law regarding this issue.
4. The scope of the Labor Law is rather restricted in terms of women’s employment; the necessary amendments must be made not only to increase women’s employment rates, but also to improve their work conditions. Within this context;
• Women that work in domestic services as temporary wage-earners must be included within the scope of the law.
• The Agricultural Labor Law must be passed in relation to the agricultural sector, where mostly women are employed.
• To prevent the gender-based discrimination that occurs during the recruitment process, the definition of a work relationship in the Labor Law must be expanded to include the “recruitment process” as well.
• The scope of the Labor Law must be expanded to stand against all kinds of discrimination including gender-based discrimination, and discrimination based on sexual orientation, ethnicity, or religion.
5. To ensure equality is achieved and to challenge all kinds of discrimination, institutions and organizations in the public and private sectors must develop active mechanisms that will enable the questioning and transformation of gender-based discrimination that women encounter in all stages of their professional lives, from recruitment to on-the-job training and career advancement. Within this context, they must urgently develop and begin to implement organizational structures that aim to prevent gender discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace.
6. Until a balanced structure is formed between women and men in the labor force, affirmative action strategies must be implemented and these implementations must be endorsed by the state.
7. In Turkey, women earn approximately 46% of what men earn. As a first step toward preventing this kind of discrimination and implementing the equal pay for equivalent work principle, an objective job classification system must be developed and salaries must be determined based on this system. In addition, payment of low salaries to women arbitrarily, based on the assumption that there is a man at home to provide for the household, is a practice that needs to be monitored closely.
8. There is a need for regulations that will ultimately make equality a reality for women in the economic, social, and political spheres. To this end, temporary special measures must be put into effect until equality is achieved in social life. For years, women have been demanding that a minimum 30% quota be set within the context of the Political Parties Law so that women are represented in decision making mechanisms. Similar pro-women quotas need to be put into effect during job recruitment, appointment and promotion processes at public and private workplaces.
We, the undersigned women’s organizations argue that to increase women’s employment in Turkey, the policies and practices outlined above must be considered holistically, and demand that improved women’s employment does not translate merely as a numeric increase, but the formation of an environment where women can work under humane working conditions and are employed with the same opportunities and possibilities offered to men. We call on the public and private sector to collaborate with us within the context of the policies and practices outlined above in each and every step to be taken toward the formation of this environment.
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