Consequences of Globalisation on Turkish Women Regarding Labor Participation

Seminar Paper, 2009

25 Pages, Grade: 5 (Schweiz)



1. Introduction

2. Theoretical Framework
2.1 Globalization and its Impact on Women
2.2 Neo-liberalism and Turkish Economy

3. A Cultural Analysis of Turkish Society
3.1 Historical Background: Islam and Reforms
3.2 Work in Turkish Culture

4. Women Labor in Turkey
4.1 Migration and Weakening Social Networks
4.2 Informal Sector
4.3 Free Production Zones
4.4 Women Poverty in Turkey
4.5 Participation of Turkish Women in the Labor Force
4.5.1 Profile of the Women Employment 13
4.5.2 Reasons for the Low Participation of Women in the Labour Market

5. Conclusion

6. Further Reflection


Appendix: Key concepts related to gendering global issues

List of Tables

Table 1: Employed Population

Table 2: Level of education of the population over six years of age (%)

Table 3: Status in Employment


Globalisation is marked by growing economic interdependence and internationalisation of capital. Some of the important characteristics of this phenomenon are the increasing interconnectedness between societies as a result of the rapid development of communications and growing trade, the invention of new technologies, increased capital mobility and the growing importance of transnational corporations (McGrew 2005: 22). It became increasingly clear that globalization was, from the beginning, a process based on gender[1] discrimination, which meant it affected men and women differently in an economic, social and cultural sense. Global markets, free production zones, and new growth strategies make women the victims of development programmes. In Thailand, Bangladesh, Mexico, China and in many areas of the so-called “Third World”, western capital exploits the cheapest workforce. The governments there have offered their young women to the international capital and were willing to create so-called “free production zones” in which the capital has great freedom. Free production zones are being strongly criticised, because foreign companies do not need to respect any labour protection laws in these areas, and have plenty of room to manoeuvre and to pursue their interests. Critics come too, because the companies don’t need to consider the damage to the environment (Kümbetoglu/Caga 2001: 58).

It is not possible to analyze women’s situation in the working world and discrimination against women independent from the national and global structural adjustment programmes, globalisation and the policies of international finance institutions. In the 1980s many economic changes were experienced, the World Bank and IMF imposed several economical and financial structural adjustment programmes for developing countries. The main consequences of these programs, which were based on neo-liberal paradigm, was privatization, a decrease in the price of export goods, lower benefits, increasing unemployment and the widening of informal sector. In many developing countries people are becoming poorer as a result of these economic developments and political choices, therefore their living standards are being undermine, and in many countries they face hunger. Although more women are increasingly in the labour force, the jobs done by women are mostly poorly paid and without legal protection (Buvinic 1995). That means, the increasing capacity of multinational capital widening the Fordist production systems to other areas in the world makes it possible for the female workforce to be exploited through cheap wages and heavy work conditions. Turkey has witnessed similar developments and the women who are affected by the globalisation process not much different from those in other developing countries. Women are generally paid more poorly than man and are not covered by the social security system. This paper aims to analyze the impacts of globalisation on female employment in Turkey, to give a profile of the female labour force, and to discuss the reasons why the number of women does not increase in the area of employment in Turkey. Furthermore, how global actors exploit women’s potential, and the way women are integrated to the global structure in Turkey will be analyzed. In order to reach a conclusion, data from the State Institute of Statistics regarding women labour will be investigated and different academic articles by Turkish scholars will be analyzed.


In order to provide the theoretical framework for the research question, the necessary analytical background will be discussed in two parts: First, globalisation and its impact on women, and second neo-liberal ideology.

2.1 Globalisation and its Impact on Women

Globalisation can simply be defined as “the integration of the world-economy” (Gilpin 2001: 364). One can distinguish four theories of globalisation (Smith/Baylis 2005: 7): Liberalism, Realism, Marxism and Constructivism. According to Realists, globalisation doesn’t change the most important characteristic of the world political system, namely the sovereignty of nation-states, while it can affect our economic, social and cultural lives. For liberals, the importance of the states in a globalising world diminishes. Liberals are especially interested in the revolution of communications and technology that are manifested by globalisation. For Constructivists, globalisation creates cross-national social movements and accordingly they claim that globalisation can be shaped in a variety of ways, and especially through the ability of leaders to challenge globalisation. For Marxists, globalisation is not new, and is the last stage of capitalism. According to Marxists: “Above all it is a western-led phenomenon which basically furthers the development of international capitalism. Rather than make the world more alike, it further deepens the existing divide between the core, the semi-periphery, and the periphery” (Smith/Baylis 2005: 8). Hirst and Thompson (1996: 2-3) argue that there is no shift of finance and capital from the developed to the underdeveloped world, and direct investment is mainly concentrated within the developed countries. Consequently, they claim that the world-economy is basically concentrated in and between three blocs-- North America, Japan and Europe, which proves that world economy is not global. Critical voices on globalisation stress that globalisation is an expansion of capitalism and causes a decline in employment conditions. IMF and World Bank programmes do not consider the burden on women caused by their policies:

“There is no recognition of women and men’s different roles at home, at work and in society, that women face discrimination which restricts their engagement in economic activities or that women have traditionally borne the brunt of economic change. It is women’s labour, both unpaid and underpaid as part of the global assembly line, that continues to be central to nations’ economic growth and therefore to the creation of the global economy” (FoE 2009).

In this essay a special attention is given to the Marxist position that the capitalist system sees women merely as a source of cheap labour to fill the gaps in the productive process. Marx pointed to the inclination of capitalism to make profits from the exploitation of women and children. In Capital Marx writes:

"The labour of women and children was, therefore, the first thing sought for by capitalists who used machinery. That mighty substitute for labour and labourers was forthwith changed into a means for increasing the number of wage-labourers by enrolling, under the direct sway of capital, every member of the workman's family, without distinction of age or sex. Compulsory work for the capitalist usurped the place, not only of the children's play, but also of free labour at home within moderate limits for the support of the family." (Marx 1867: 394-5)

A group scholars evaluate the consequences of globalisation on women and children as negative, and stress that “globalisation is a man” (Went 2000). The commentators emphasize that especially women and children are negatively affected by IMF and World Bank policies as the welfare state is cut. Nevertheless not only negative aspects are mentioned in the literature regarding the consequences of globalisation on the women employment.

Consequences of economic globalisation on labour markets is a topic intensively researched by scholars. Changing employment conditions are attracting more and more attention. Some scholars stress the positive impact, and leave its negative impact (as described in the above citations) aside: It has been argued that the increasing trade openness has increased women’s share of paid employment (Kama 2006: 28). How globalisation affects gender discrimination is also a highly controversial issue. Between the years of 1970-2005, social indicators showed that there was an improvement in women’s overall quality of life, and indicated that women’s participation in the labor force had risen moderately. Their life span became longer, they had fewer children and more education. According to these studies schooling, participation in politics and work and earnings were accepted as indicators measuring women’s achievements in recent years. In this sense, Turkey’s transformation process has been analyzed, and this found that with an increase in trade and better access to economic markets, quality of life has increased especially for educated women in the country (Kama 2006: 29). This optimistic view can be valid for developed countries, but the situation in Turkey can not be evaluated as positively, because the number of women in the labour force (for educated women too) does not increase in Turkey. To use Marxist terminology, the international economy has divided the world into core, semi-periphery and periphery areas, and there exists an interdependent relationship between these countries, where the conditions are not as equal. If the developments after 1980s are observed carefully, the formal sector is seen as rising in the developed countries, whereas in developing countries such as Turkey, a slowdown in formal sector employment has been observed (Chen et. al 1999).

Goretti Horgan, who is the official leader of the Socialist Environmental Alliance, and works full time as a Research Fellow at the University of Ulster handles both the negative and positive aspects equally:

“Capitalism's expansion across the globe has depended on a massive influx of tens of millions of women into the workforce who had traditionally been dependent on husbands and male relatives. Globalisation has contradictory effects on women. Those who assign male gender to globalisation are right to point to how women's role in reproduction and the family means they suffer more from the effects of the neo-liberal agenda--but that's only half the story. It has also brought great freedom to women, especially those living in traditionally conservative countries like Indonesia, Ireland and Thailand, where women are able for the first time to be economically independent of men and to have at least some choice in their personal lives. Ultimately, by bringing women into the workforce, globalisation has given women a power they lacked in the past--the power to end the system that breeds poverty, exploitation and oppression” (Horgan 2001).

According to Horgan (2001), women workers are the key to globalisation. This process has depended on women to provide cheap labour from which transnational corporations have extracted profits. According to the citation above, the feminization of the formal workforce has contributed to the independence of women on the one hand. On the other hand, women who have a responsibility in their family have faced difficulties in reconciling both family life and work life.

The disappearing borders between countries for the capital, the information technology and developments in transportation options have all led to the fact that capital tends to go, where labour is cheap. The capital wants to determine the working conditions in accordance to its own interests, and can compete in the global market if and only if they can decrease labor costs (Toksöz et. al. 2001). Flexible production and flexibilisation of the labour force on the one hand, the decentralisation, outsourcing and subcontracting of production on the other hand have been the consequences of these developments. Accordingly, labour by women has gained importance because it is flexible and cheap (Horgan 2001). To summarize, the emergence of flexible production methods and increasing informal sector employment has contributed to the world economy enormously, and is characterised by the expansion of the global assembly line wherein goods are produced around the world dependent upon the availability of cheap wages (FoE 2009).

In this essay I will mention rather the negative impacts of the globalisation on women employment. I try to bring the globalisation with a critic of the neoliberal ideology in conjunction and to analyse the situation of the women in Turkey with a critical perspective that stress that globalisation is an expansion of capitalism and causes a decline in employment conditions. On the basis of this perspective, it will be defended that in Turkey the IMF and World Bank programmes do not consider the burden on women caused by their policies. The discrimination women face, restricts their engagement in economic activities.

2.2 Neo-liberalism and Turkish Economy

Neoliberal ideology, which is the dominant paradigm in the current international political system, promotes its own virtues, accelerating the internationalization of markets. That means that economic globalization and neoliberal ideology are not two separate entities, but in fact support each other and should be handled together (Faulks 1999: 71). Neo-liberal policies are accepted as the norm throughout the world except by very few countries such as Cuba. Reduction of state spending, privatization, the promotion of free markets, currency devaluation, deregulation of the economy, and the reduction of trade union rights are the most important examples of these policies. The adoption of neo-liberal policies by developing countries has had a number of consequences. As Hobden and Richard Wyn Jones (2005: 238) puts it: “Spending on health and education has been reduced, they have been forced to rely more on the export of raw materials, and their markets have been saturated with manufactured goods from the industrialized world”. Accordingly, three areas in the interest of the First World countries can be observed: Free trade, the area of raw materials and the privatisation of the industries in developing countries. The reason for the adoption of neo-liberal policies by Third World countries depends mainly on the forcing element. “Through the 1970s and 1980s and continuing to today there has been a major debt crisis between the Third World and the West…Third World countries were unable to pay-off the interest on these debts, let alone the debt itself” (Hobden/Jones 2005: 238).


[1] For the definitions of the key concepts related to gendering global issues see appendix.

Excerpt out of 25 pages


Consequences of Globalisation on Turkish Women Regarding Labor Participation
University of Bern  (Geographisches Institut)
Politische Geographie
5 (Schweiz)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
552 KB
globalisation, labor participation, women studies
Quote paper
Can Büyükbay (Author), 2009, Consequences of Globalisation on Turkish Women Regarding Labor Participation, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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