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The determinants of female labor force participation in Turkey: who cares determines who participates and who does not


Ilkkaracan, Ipek & Acar, Sevil (2007). The determinants of female labor force participation in Turkey: who cares determines who participates and who does not.


This paper aims to explore the reasons leading to the low rates of female participation in the labor market in Turkey from such a gendered supply perspective. Using the Household Labor Force Survey (HHLFS) data in the 1988-2006 period, we explore the variations on labor force participation patterns by education and focus on variables such as marital status, presence of children in the household and availability of unpaid childcare as proxies for the gender division of labor. The detailed analysis of HHLFS data entails an evaluation of the variation in the determinants of labor force participation by sex, rural versus urban location, level of education; and through time.

To the extent that data provides support for such a supply side account whereby the GDOL and gender roles as the main bottleneck in female participation, the policy conclusions will also differ. The policy framework under which the problem of economic disparities between men and women are under discussion in the EU framework is one which puts “work-family life reconciliation” at the center. The term “reconciliation of work and family life,” implies the ability of adults to undertake their responsibilities as productive workers in the labor market while at the same time effectively fulfilling their responsibilities in the family such as care of children, the elderly, the sick, the disabled and household tasks. To the extent that the latter set of tasks have traditionally been relegated to women’s unpaid labor in the household, measures for such reconciliation would be expected to improve primarily women’s economic condition. These measures entail a wide-ranging set of policies such as maternity and paternity leave, subsidized childcare, benefits, working time arrangements, flexible forms of employment and so on (EFILWC 2006).

The paper proceeds as follows: Section 2 sets out a theoretical background for analysis of the gender gap in labor force participation patterns and undertakes a review of the empirical studies on determinants of female participation patterns from different countries as well as from Turkey. Section 3 provides an analytical overview of HLFS data from 1980s to 2000s and starts exploring the question of the nature of interactions between education and women’s labor force participation in Turkey. Section 4 presents the results of a logit regression analysis conducted with 1988 and 2005 HLFS data for male and female samples as well as for different subgroups of the female sample. Section 5 concludes with a summary of our results and some policy insights.

Reference Type

Conference Paper

Year Published



Ilkkaracan, Ipek
Acar, Sevil