Bu makaleyi alıntılamak için: Gülay Toksöz, “Women’s Employment in Turkey in the Light of Different Trajectories in Development-Different Patterns in Women’s Employment,” Fe Dergi 3, sayı 2 (2011), 18-31.


Women’s Employment in Turkey in the Light of Different Trajectories in Development-Different Patterns in Women’s Employment1

Gülay Toksöz*


Within the last quarter of the twentieth century, there was an increase in demand for female labour in developing countries along with transition to export-oriented industrialization and growth strategies. Though Turkey’s transition to export-oriented industrialisation model took place in the 80s, industrial employment in general and particularly women’s share in this employment increased very little. As a result of decline in agricultural production and employment, an additional labour force, both male and female, emerged but growth in non-agricultural employment could not create demand to absorb this new labour force particularly in the case of women. In this article, the reasons why demand for female labour force remained at low levels will be discussed in the context of development strategies adopted.


Keywords: gender, development, employment, industrialization, growth



Farklı Kalkınma Stratejileri Işığında Türkiye'de Kadın İstihdamı

Yirminci yüzyılın son çeyreğinde, gelişmekte olan ülkelerde ihraç yönelimli sanayileşme ve büyüme stratejilerine geçişle birlikte kadın işgücüne olan talep artmıştır. Türkiye, ihracat yönelimli sanayileşme modeline 1980’lerde geçmiş olmasına rağmen genelde imalat sanayi istihdamının, özelde ise bu istihdam içinde kadınların payının artışı çok sınırlı düzeyde kalmıştır. Tarımsal üretimin ve istihdamın gerilemesi sonucu hem erkek hem kadın işgücü açığa çıkmış, ancak tarım dışı istihdamdaki büyüme özellikle kadınlar açısından bu gerilemeyi karşılayacak boyutlarda bir işgücü talebi yaratmamıştır. Bu makalede kadın işgücüne olan talebin düşük düzeyde kalmasının nedenleri, izlenen kalkınma stratejileriyle bağlantılı olarak ele alınacaktır.


Anahtar kelimeler: toplumsal cinsiyet, kalkınma, istihdam, sanayileşme, büyüme



Introduction

Within the last quarter of the twentieth century, there was an increase in demand for female labour in developing countries along with transition to export-oriented industrialization and growth strategies. For firms who have to pull down costs in order to compete better in international markets, women are necessary as a cheap source of labour in producing labour intensive goods. However, this growth model has followed different trajectories in relation to growth models pursued earlier by developing countries and demand for female labour has assumed different dimensions. Consequently, women’s labour force participation rates and employment turned out to increase at different paces. The presence of labour supply sufficient to meet the demand for female labour and women’s working conditions are both closely related with the operation of the patriarchal system in countries and the stage at which capitalist development model has reached. Moreover, different forms of articulation to the global markets create different patterns in participation to employment.

In the present article, strategies of capitalist development pursued by developing countries, stages at which these strategies have reached and places of countries in international division of labour will be addressed in terms of differences they create in demand for female labour and the Turkey’s status will be discussed in this context. Though Turkey’s transition to export-oriented industrialisation model took place in the 80s, industrial employment in general and particularly women’s share in this employment increased very little. As a result of decline in agricultural production and employment, an additional labour force, both male and female, emerged but growth in non-agricultural employment could not create demand for labour force enough to absorb this new labour force particularly in the case of women. The reasons why demand for female labour force remained at low levels will be discussed in the context of development strategies adopted. 2

Different Development Strategies Pursued by Developing Countries

There are three main dimensions in development patterns which are historically and structurally determined in the capitalist world: i) Major industries which lead economic development of a given country, 2) Orientation of these industries to domestic and external markets, 3) Major economic actors as the basis of practicing and sustaining development. Development strategies are government policies that “shape a country’s relationship to the global economy and that affect the domestic allocation of resources among industries and major social groups”.3 As laid bare by the experiences of newly industrializing countries (NIC) in Eastern Asia and Latin America, these policies are influential in the differentiation of industrialization trajectories in terms of timing, chronology and content. Looking at the cases of Mexico and Brazil in Latin America and Taiwan and South Korea in East Asia on the basis of these categories, we see two major periods in industrial development, known as import substitution and export-oriented, consist of distinct stages in each and neither of the two fully replaces the other. In other words, it is not possible to speak about an absolute rupture where export-oriented industrialization, which follows import substitution, fully abandons all elements of the earlier period. What one can speak about is the change in relative importance of production activities that are oriented to domestic markets or abroad.

At the first stages of both industrialization models, primary consumer goods such as textiles, garment, footwear and foodstuffs are produced for domestic and foreign markets. At the second stage, there is transition to durable consumer goods (i.e. cars), intermediate goods (i.e. petro-chemicals, steel) and capital goods (i.e. heavy machinery) in both models. The temporality as well as duration of this transition and patterns of interaction between these models depends on various factors including development strategies adopted by individual countries and the way how governments respond to domestic and external pressures including the rate of inflation, balance of payments and interests of foreign capital.4 Of course, one should also take into account such political factors as the level of class struggles in any given country and the extent of governments compromising their capital accumulation policies in favour of working people.

The countries of Latin America started import-substituting industrialization earlier and stayed there longer. Eastern Asia countries, on the other hand, shifted to export-oriented industrialization earlier. However, what is common to countries in both regions is that they passed through both stages in terms of the structure and composition of production in both import-substituting and export-oriented strategies and that they applied a combination fitting to their conditions while turning inside or outside. Hence, it will not be correct to suggest the Eastern Asia model as the single recipe for success to countries with different historical, cultural and political circumstances.5 Anticipations of Gereffi dating back to the mid-90s have been confirmed once more by the high performance of Brazil in development.

The common view of researchers working on female labour is that during the period of import-substituting industrialization there was no need for female labour in various regions of the world. In the first stage of this period, oriented to the production of basic consumer goods, women could not turn into industrial workers in large-scale enterprises mostly for their low level of education and qualification, having mainly agriculture as their leading area of employment leaving aside employment in small-scale traditional manufacturing enterprises. At the second stage oriented to the manufacturing of durable consumer and intermediate goods, the majority of those working in such capital intensive and import-substituting sectors as steel, shipbuilding, automotive etc were males. The period is therefore considered as a period of industrialization marginalizing female labour force.6


Linkages between Development Strategies and International Division of Labour

It must be underlined that different strategies in development correspond to different stages in international division of labour. In the colonial period, while agricultural goods and raw materials flew from the periphery to the centre, in large part of the nineteenth century and in the first half of the twentieth century, countries at the centre exported their industrial goods to the periphery, continuing their importation of raw materials and agricultural goods. This ‘traditional’ division of labour which lasted for about a century also witnessed some peripheral countries domestically producing some consumer goods and intermediate goods in line with import-substituting industrialization. The period starting from the 1960s is coined as ‘new international division of labour.’ In this period, firms in central economies started to transfer their production units from the centre to the periphery through direct foreign capital investments.7 This situation was influential in the early transition of some periphery countries to export-oriented industrialization strategy, which led to their coining as “newly industrialized countries” and their new “semi-periphery” status. The pioneers are the countries of Eastern Asia which enjoy their high share in direct foreign investments. At the first stage of export-oriented industrialization, their export goods consist of basic consumer goods including textiles and garment as well as intermediate goods in chemical, petroleum and steel industries. 8

In the early 80s, one can speak of a transition to an even “newer” international division of labour. Not eliminating the basic features of the earlier division of labour, but adding onto it some new dimensions, the characteristics of this new process can be listed as follows: Firstly, instead of firms in centre countries, launching production units in the periphery through direct investments, there is the tendency of these firms to phase out of production process by establishing outsourcing relations of cooperation with independent local producers. Secondly, while manufacturing still has its pivotal role in economic activities shifted from the centre to the periphery and semi-periphery, there is now the tendency to increasingly shift services (office activities) as well. This tendency is in line with the rising importance of the services sector in centre countries. Thirdly, some periphery countries as targets of direct foreign investments have now reached a status where they can directly invest in relatively less developed countries. The leading examples include those in Eastern Asia, namely South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore also known as “Asian tigers.” Fourthly, the share of total investments from industrial countries to other countries of the centre has gradually increased.9 As a result of all these developments, while manufacturing activities in industrial countries loose their earlier importance relative to services, agriculture is losing its significance particularly in semi-periphery countries leaving manufacturing industry as the driving force in both economic growth and employment. The “newer international division of labour” coincides with the second stage in export-oriented industrialization at which Eastern Asian countries now export durable consumer goods, electronic devices and intermediate goods.

Before addressing the implications of all these developments for female labour, it will be useful to explore which characteristics of Eastern Asian countries enabled them to move from peripheral to semi-peripheral status, a move which is now continuing to the centre. In the cases of South Korea and Taiwan in East Asia, attention is drawn to the active role of the State and its support to R&D. In the 80s, national governments extended significant amounts of low-interest loans to the selected sectors including electronics in the first place, transferred again significant resources to R&D and planned for industrial development together with the private sector as their leading partner. As a result, South Korea had its significant share in world computer production. Not limited solely to electronics, this strategy was implemented in the sectors of steel, shipbuilding, textiles-garments, footwear and automotive as well. In Taiwan and Singapore too economic development was similarly financed by highly interventionist and relatively authoritarian governments.10

In Taiwan where transition to export-oriented industrialization took place in the 60s, government policies tended to shift from labour intensive to capital intensive production following the economic crisis of the mid-70s and as a result of policies supporting technology. Taiwan became a major world actor in electronics in the 80s and 90s. The transfer of labour intensive industries out of Taiwan starting from the mid-80s gave an extra momentum to the process of transformation in manufacturing industry. While big firms in high technology industries remained in Taiwan, smaller and more export-oriented firms started to transfer their production outside the country as Taiwan was losing its competitive power, to those countries of South-eastern Asia with lower labour costs. 11


Role of Women’s Labour in the Development of Eastern Asia

Different economic approaches converge in explaining the successful performance of these countries. According to heterodox economists, the active role of the State in guiding national economies was the decisive factor in success. Neoclassical economists, on the other hand, put their emphasis on “market friendly” approaches of governments. According to this approach, openness to trade, a well functioning bureaucracy and reliable legal framework left domestic firms vulnerable to the competition of foreign companies, which forced them to be more efficient and this, in turn, brought about better allocation of resources and rise in productivity. Rise in exports is the most salient indicator of increase in output.12 From a feminist perspective, Seguino criticizes both approaches for their gender blind explanations on the growth of countries in question and argues that the positive effect of gender based inequality on exports and investments stimulated this growth. The transition to export-oriented industrialization indeed increased the demand for female labour as a cheap source of labour starting from the 60s, especially at the first stage. In the mid 90s, the share of female employment in manufacturing industry varies within the range 40% to 52% depending on individual countries, women are clearly paid lower than men. In the period 1975-95, women/men wage ratio was 48.5% in South Korea, 54.2% in Indonesia and 64.1% in Taiwan.13 Cheap female labour successfully brought about the desired fall in unit labour cost of export goods in Asian economies. Low wages made export goods more competitive; foreign exchange thus obtained, enhanced access to technology which in turn supported increase in productivity. Moreover, low wages substituted devaluation and consequently governments managed to keep the cost of imported inputs in production low. Statistics suggest that countries with widest gap in male and female wages are also the fastest growing countries. Keeping female wages low, in its part, depends on the existence of patriarchal gender norms in the countries of the region.14

A study on gender based wage inequalities conducted in Taiwan shows that women mostly worked in labour intensive industries at the first stage of export-oriented industrialization (1961-1972) and that women’s job losses were higher than males at the second stage which started in the mid-80s when production was mostly carried to the countries of Eastern Asia in the process of restructuring accompanied by R&D activities. In fact, the share of women in wage employment which was 52% in 1982 fell to 45% in 1996. The trend accompanying this is the further widening gap between male and female wages as a result of relative fall in demand for female labour. In the period 1983-92, while wages of both males and females increased in monetary terms, women/men earnings ratio fell from 71% to 62%. The increase in gender-based wage inequality in manufacturing industry coincides with a time when education-training gap between men and women narrowed. The main reason for this increase is the discriminatory attitude of employers not to hire females for new, highly paid and qualified jobs. “Technical jobs” are regarded as jobs for men, which is the outcome of a patriarchal mentality.15 The articulation between capitalism and patriarchy in Eastern Asian countries took place through the subjection of females to lower wages than males. With the transition from the production of basic to durable consumer goods, the priority assigned to males in technology-intensive jobs and at least partial exclusion of women appeared as an another manifestation of the same articulation.


Women in Development in Middle East and North Africa Region

The region Middle East and North Africa (MENA) displays significant differences from Eastern and South-Eastern Asian countries in terms of development strategy and its gender implications. The countries of the region enjoyed quite high rates of growth especially in the 70s upon rising oil prices. Easy access to foreign exchange made it easier to follow import-substituting industrialization strategies while, at the same time, delaying transition to export-oriented industrialization phase. Another factor which contributed to the same delay was the low level of education and qualification of labour force in the region. Particular features of the region include high level of illiteracy among women and gaps in school enrolment rates between males and females, which constitutes the large gender gap in education. Exceptionally low rate of participation of women to non-agricultural works and wage employment is the common feature of MENA countries with the exception of Tunisia and Morocco. There are various factors contributing to this situation which completely diverges from that in the countries of Eastern and South-Eastern Asia. The first among these factors is the patriarchal family structure which limits female labour supply; given the gender-based division of labour, women are mainly expected to supply their unpaid labour for household affairs and chores. Seeking answer to the question why this patriarchal family structure protected by various legislative arrangements, social policies and family laws is more persistent than surrounding countries, Moghadam and Karshenas (2001) draw attention to relatively higher wages in MENA countries. At the import-substitution stage in the early phase of capitalist development, this level of wages made family subsistence possible exclusively by males’ earnings and thus left no pressing need for women’s labour market participation. Indeed, a comparison on dollar-based non-agricultural wages between MENA countries and Indonesia, also a Muslim country, shows that wages in MENA countries in the early 60s were 4 to 10 times higher than wages in Indonesia in the early 70s. Hence, while wages in MENA countries were conducive to the persistence of patriarchal family model where a single member could sustain the family, in Indonesia where wages were much lower women’s labour force participation was much higher.16 According to the authors, socio-cultural factors retain their importance in terms of women’s labour force participation; nevertheless, these factors themselves are radically shaped by modern economic development experience. In countries with relatively higher per capita income in non-agricultural sectors, in the transition period elements of traditional culture that restrict the role of women are still in effect whereas new cultural norms that allow for women’s high rates of participation to labour force emerge in others in which relatively lower levels of income make it impossible for a single member to sustain the family alone.17 This point may be taken a step further with reference to the stage of the country in her adopted development model. During the rather long period of import-substituting industrialization process in MENA countries there was no need for female labour in the production of either basic or durable consumer goods, and articulation between patriarchy and capitalism was provided by excluding women from labour force.

Meanwhile, depending on the availability of oil reserves, there are variations among MENA countries as to which model of industrialization should be adopted and for how long. In countries once enjoying high returns to oil, wages depreciated after the end of oil welfare and men in the public sector in particular started to take on other jobs in addition to their present employment. The rate of unemployment increased as a result of increasing labour supply which stemmed from high fertility rates and lower rates of economic growth. Starting from the 80s and guided by the WB and IMF, these countries adopted structural adjustment policies and export-oriented industrialization to diversify their export goods other than oil. This process started earlier in Tunisia and Morocco, as the countries without oil reserves. As transition from import-substituting industrialization to export-oriented industrialization started, relatively high demand for cheap female labour force in the production of basic consumer goods, including textiles and garment in the first place, brought along an increase in women’s labour force participation rates.18 Still, MENA countries today are the ones with lowest rates of women’ labour participation compared to other regions of the world. Indeed, while global female labour force participation is 51.5% in 2009, it is 25.4% in Middle East and 27.4% in North Africa.19 Limited industrial growth in import-substituting period in these countries was influential in weaker trends in export-oriented industrialization and keeping women’s participation to employment limited. Hence, the change in industrialization strategy did not result in a change in the articulation of capitalism with patriarchy and this articulation remained as it had been.

Development Strategies and Women’s Labour in Turkey

Period of Industrialization based on Import Substitution

While not having oil income, Turkey displays characteristics similar to MENA countries in terms of low rates of labour force participation by women. From a historical perspective, the State followed an import-substituting industrialization policies starting from the 30s in the republican era and was the leading actor in industrialization given the low level of private capital accumulation. The period following the Second World War was the transition period from single to the multi-party regime for Turkey. This period witnessed the opening up of economy to foreign capital and aid, thriving commercial capital, new market orientation in rural sector and a rather rapid urbanization. In the same period, there was a radical rupture from earlier economic policies which were somewhat distrustful to foreign capital. Experts mainly from the US, advised Turkey to narrow the domain of public enterprises, keep away from heavy industry (iron-steel and chemicals), focus on processing agricultural goods and carry the policy of industrialization in such branches as light metal, construction materials, etc to get Marshall aid. This meant that Turkey should take her place in international division of labour in the context of reconstructing Europe by supplying for the needs of this continent by boosting and marketing its agricultural goods. 20

However, there was no back off from import-substituting industrialization policies and as the first step in this process domestic production on non-durable consumer foods continued. Private sector enterprises too started their activities to respond to rising demand for these goods and to the extent they were insufficient public enterprises expanded their production. The establishment of new SEEs (State economic enterprises) in the period 1950-60 and expanding role of the public sector in economy had two main reasons behind. The first is that private capital and enterprises could not catch up with rising demand and the second is the supply of inputs needed by newly established private enterprises. Public industrial investments were mainly directed to basic consumer and some intermediate goods whereas production of durable and investments goods remained limited. Industrial investments by the private sector were mostly in the form of small-scale enterprises mainly based on primitive technology and protected against foreign competition in domestic market.21 In this period, there is no transition in Turkey from the first stage of import-substituting industrialization to the second stage at which durable consumer goods were produced unlike the case in eastern Asian countries. Again in this period when the number of wage workers increased very slowly, the share of industrial workforce in total employment was only around 6-7% 22.

Although the share of women and children in total labour force increased a little during the Second World War as a result of the military mobilization of males, the share of women in industrial employment was very limited. In 1950, the total number of females employed under the Labour Code is 65,123, corresponding to a share of 17.4%. In the following years, while the absolute number of women employed formally increased to 89,400 in 1960, their share in employment dropped to 11.7% 23. This shrinking share derives from the fact that “labour force demand is met almost fully by males” 24. It can be assumed that most of these formal establishments were industrial enterprises and there was an invisible ceiling not allowing the share of women in manufacturing industry to exceed 20%. In 1955, there were 119,871 women employed in manufacturing industry which corresponds to 16.5% in total employment in manufacturing industry. It was 15.6% in 1960.25 What places this ceiling on is, as will be seen below, is the employment of women in limited number of branches -regarded as ‘fit for women’ in manufacturing industry.

According to a survey conducted in 1957 in industrial enterprises subject to the Labour Code, branches or sub-sectors with relatively high number and share of female employees were tobacco, textiles and foodstuffs in descending order and 92.6% of all women employed were in these branches.26 In these sectors characterised by low wages and labour intensive production, wages of female employees are 65.2% of male wages in tobacco, 75.4% in textiles and 55.1% in foodstuffs. 27 This significant wage differentials stem not only from women’s concentration in unqualified works for their lower level of education but also from the mentality that presumes lower wages for women just because of their gender. A notable point for this period is that real wages display a rising trend between 1955 and 63.28

The planned development period of 1960-80 partly coincides with the second stage in import-substituting industrialization. Although there was a surge towards the production of durables and intermediate goods, production of basic consumer goods was still dominant. Five-year development plans which can be considered as state intervention to economy are binding for the public sector and guiding for the private. However, this intervention remained quite weak compared to cases in Eastern Asia. The underlying principles in this period included a) protection of domestic market from foreign competition; b) encouraging industrial investments; c) boosting domestic demand through income and wage policies; and d) highly valued domestic currency. However, the existence of absolutely protected domestic markets and possibility of selling domestically produced goods at highest prices, precluded efforts to improve productivity and quality. Easy import of investment and intermediate goods needed for producing consumer goods as a result of overvalued TL continuously enlarged foreign trade deficit. The very same exchange rate policy also affected exports negatively and Turkey’s exports largely composed of agricultural goods showed no remarkable shift to the export of industrial goods.29 Hence, the planned development period cannot be considered successful in ensuring transition to the second stage of import-substituting industrialization.

This is a period in which women’s employment in non-agricultural activities was very limited and few women, highly educated and qualified, performed their specialized professions in urban centres. Especially for women who moved from rural to urban areas, being a housewife in their new urban environments is an aspiration after rather heavy rural work burden.30 Indeed, the proportion of women over age 15 who are economically active in non-agricultural sectors was 3.5% in 1950, 4.7% in 1960, 10% in 1970 and 10.4% in 1975. In 1970, the industrial employment pattern of working women with respect to their leading sub-sectors of employment is the same as it was in 1957; tobacco (57%), textiles and garment (30%) and food-beverage (25%).31 Kazgan maintains that these sub-sectors employing relatively higher numbers of women mainly produce export goods and their wages are low due to being open to international competition. Male employee dominated heavy industry, on the other hand, produces import substitute goods which are protected against competition. Since many enterprises in this field have monopolistic positions, they can sell their goods at high prices and pay relatively higher wages to their workers. In addition to these, employment of women in more labour-intensive sub-sectors of manufacturing industry and fewer numbers of women covered by collective bargaining are also other factors leading to lower wages. 32

Looking at the trend in real wages in the period 1963-1980 we see no fall below the level in the base year 1963 albeit some downturns in specific years.33 We can say that in the first and second stages of import-substituting industrialization, keeping wages and salaries relatively high and thus supporting purchasing power, made it possible for male household heads to sustain their families alone and was therefore effective in maintaining patriarchal family structure. The fact that employment policies envisaged by the first four of five-year development plans, starting in 1963, had no provision about women’s employment34 can be construed as the State’s acceptance of the consensus between capital and patriarchy and, moreover, its contribution to this consensus by adopting policies of higher wages especially in public enterprises. As a matter of fact, Özbay points out that social mobility of women in the period mentioned which took the form of male attachment through marriage instead of making use of education and employment opportunities should be considered as the articulation of classical patriarchal order to capitalism. 35


Period of Export-Oriented Industrialization

Foreign exchange bottleneck which assumed grave dimensions with rising oil prices in the 70s was influential in the adoption of export-oriented industrialization policies under the direction of international finance organizations by developing countries, including Turkey,. In Turkey, economic decisions adopted on 24 January 1980 are the starting point for abandoning import-substituting policies and transition to export-oriented growth. However, since the second stage of import-substituting model was not fully experienced, export-oriented industrialization in Turkey mainly remained at the first stage of this model, not going beyond it. In the period after 1980, there was significant increase in the exportation of basic consumer goods; yet, this increase derived from more effective use of existing industrial capacity and keeping export prices low rather than an upward shift in the productive capacity of manufacturing industry. Importation of intermediate goods needed for industrial production continued instead of domestically producing these goods. Policies geared to boosting exports were based on pulling down domestic demand and labour costs, subsidies to exporting firms and keeping Turkish Lira (TL) cheap through devaluations. 36

In keeping domestic demand and labour costs low in the period following the military coup of September 12th, constraints on trade union rights, pressure on unions and restrictive provisions in collective bargaining were influential. Rapid fall in real wages in the period 1980-88 suggests that cheap labour needs of export-oriented industrialization were met. In the period 1989-9, with the recovery of the trade union movement and relative liberalization in politics, real wages caught a rising trend again. The capital countered this trend by giving weight to flexibility in industrial relations through outsourcing and sub-contracting accompanied by privatizations in the public sector. The period after 1994 is marked by economic crisis sweeping away what had been recovered and real wages started falling again.37

Given the fall in real wages and transition to flexible forms of employment which made labour cheaper after 1980, did it create a motive for women to seek wage employment since it was nomore possible for a single member to sustain the family? According to the classical economic theory, fall in wages should bring about a rise in demand for labour. However, for women out of work to take part in labour force there must be new investments and demand for female labour. As can be seen in more detail below, structural adjustments programmes and export-oriented industrialization model adopted after 1980 exhibited limited potential in creating employment increase in spite of falling wages.38 The fact that the state has no such target as encouraging women’s labour force participation and employment becomes strikingly obvious in the 5th Development Plan covering the period 1985-89; the plan envisages only 1000 increase in female labour supply for a period of five years.39

Given all favourable conditions for capital, why could Turkey not pass to the higher stage in industrialization and ensure significant increase in industrial employment as the newly industrializing countries of Eastern Asia and Latin America could? Although this question does not have a single answer, attention must be drawn to low levels of investment in Turkey. The major difference between these countries and Turkey can be found by looking at the share of investments in national income. This share in Turkey lags far behind the industrializing countries of Eastern Asia and Latin America and also there is a significant gap between Turkey and these countries in terms of investment-saving relationship. While saving rates in these countries are higher than or equal to investment rates, lower saving rate compared to investment in Turkey leads to deficit financing from abroad. 40 Although governments in Turkey have mainly been implementers of macroeconomic policies imposed by international finance organizations, these policies brought along no significant increase in savings and investment.

The first explanation coming to mind in relation to low levels of investment is the limited inflow of direct foreign capital investments as external savings that can compensate for low levels of domestic saving.41 Secondly, excessive and lucrative profit possibilities in the financial sector keep capital away from investments in the reel sector. In the 90s, in the context of rant-based accumulation model upon high rates of interest, banks responded to borrowing needs of the public sector instead of financing reel sector investments with deposits they held. As the banking system, reel sector companies too preferred short-term financial investments to long-term fixed capital investments and their returns from activities other than investment and production consequently increased significantly.42 Thirdly, while manufacturing industry investments by the public sector rapidly declined after 1980 as a requirement in structural adjustment programmes, increase in private sector investments was not fast enough to compensate this decline. As a result the share of fixed capital investments in manufacturing industry in total investment gradually shrank.43 Fourthly, while low wages in manufacturing industry after 1980 lowered costs in the sector itself, it also led to insufficient domestic demand, which affected investments and employment negatively.44 Fifthly, as new investments get more and more capital-intensive, their employment creation potential is curtailed.45 Finally, it is possible to mention investment dissuading effects of monetary policies pursued by governments. These policies bringing along overvalued TL make imported goods cheaper and importation of intermediate goods instead of investing in them leaves employment creation capacity weak. 46

Turkey’s export-oriented industrialization strategy targeted entering into international markets and trying to maintain advantage through price competition in a process in which the production of basic consumer goods is left to poorer countries with cheap and abundant labour force such as China, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Indonesia in international division of labour. What this means in practice is employment in unfavourable conditions which is defined as “downward race” and closure of enterprises which are proven to be no more competitive resulting in unemployment.


Gender Effects of Macroeconomic Policies with Respect to Labour Demand

Looking at gender implications of factors mentioned above in terms of demand for labour, we see that manufacturing industry could create only limited increase in the employment of women. In 1975, the share of industry in total female employment was 3.9%, which increased to 15% in 2006.47 Despite increase in the number of working women and increase in the share of industry in total female employment, there is no significant change in the proportion of women employed in industry: It was 16% in the 50s, only rising to 19% in 2007.48 The sub-sectors with relatively higher numbers of women employed are the same. There is a persistent pattern of gender-based sectoral and occupational segregation in industry: women are almost confined to unqualified jobs in textiles, garment and food sub-sectors. These three sub-sectors accounted for 64% of total female employment in 2006.49 Very few women are employed, on the other hand, in high-tech electronic industries producing durable consumer goods such as radio and TV.

On the other hand, technological transformations in textile and food-beverage sub-sectors where the bulk of female workers are employed end up with reduced female labour force. As revealed by a field study, use of new technologies as a result of modernization in large textile enterprises leads to job losses by unqualified female workers while firms continue their activities with fewer number of male workers. New technologies bring along new gender-based divisions of labour and even when some jobs cease to require muscular power, no female workers are recruited since they are still perceived as ‘male jobs’. Meanwhile, there are some emerging employment opportunities for small number of technically qualified women.50 Technological renovations in medium and large-scale enterprises in food industry lead to the shrinkage of female employment, particularly in the case of unqualified female workers.51 Increase in female employment in industry can be largely attributed to employment increase in the garments sector.

Under the new international division of labour, newly industrializing countries of Eastern Asia first thrived in exporting low-tech traditional consumer goods and utilised cheap female labour in the production of these goods. Later, as they specialized in high-tech goods including electronics, female labour maintained to be the main human resource in production processes. Turkey entered international markets with basic consumer goods including textiles and garment in the first place. Competitive power in international markets, especially in textiles and garment, is mainly ensured through the flexibility that allows for the employment of females at low wages and in many cases informally.52 To assure this flexibility the following facts are vital: small production units to use domestic women as unpaid family workers thanks to patriarchal relations, the labour of domestic women engaged in home-based piecework, domestic and migrant women working in workshops at extremely low wages.53 In spite of all this flexibility, it is quite difficult to compete with such cheap labour countries as India and China in garments, leather and partly textiles which are based mainly on low-tech. And as this competition becomes more and more difficult, the share of these sub-sectors in total added value and exports shrinks and this situation in return affects production and employment negatively. Of course, the outcome of the same situation for female wage labour is unemployment and even more informal employment.

The main characteristic of production and export structure of manufacturing industry in Turkey is the high share of production based on low-tech. However, the share of technological intensity categories just below and above medium in production is in increase. This development finds its reflection in the composition of exports as well. While the share of low-tech goods such as textiles, garment and leather gets smaller, that of automotive, machinery, durables, basic metal and petroleum products based on medium technology in both total production and exports is increasing.54 Starting from the 2000s, automotive sector products as durable consumer goods have started to have the largest share in country’s export earnings.55 Employment in automotive and basic metal sectors is almost totally male dominated.56 Hence, production increase triggered by exports is not expected to create any additional demand for female labour.

As a result of macroeconomic policies pursued, insufficient levels of new investment and limited nature of progress in industrialization delayed Turkey’s transition from the first stage of export-oriented industrialization, focusing on basic consumer goods, to the second stage. The present stage which is still based on durable consumer goods without transition to high-tech production including electronics is effective in keeping the demand for female labour low. A study addressing the effects of export-oriented industrialization on urban women’s labour force participation argues that in cases where the growth performance of an economy fails to generate high-level economic activities and investment performance remains poor, export–orientation itself cannot bring along a positive and sustainable impact on employment and consequently any improvement in the share of women in total labour force.57

At this point, it must be underlined that gender-based construction of labour market, patriarchal mindsets and modes of organizing production are also the factors that determine the demand for female labour. Patriarchal mindset determining which sectors and jobs are “acceptable” for women shapes employers’ attitude in recruiting workers and limits employment opportunities for women. The very same mindset also influences women’s personal preferences on jobs to which they should supply their labour. Prevalence of enterprises where male workers are dominant in industrial districts of Anatolian cities and vision of these places as belonging only to men naturally precludes women’s presence in such locations. Women too do not want to work in such sites unless it is considered as last resort.58 There is need to conduct further research and study in this area in order to expose gender-based structures. It should be added, however, that employers’ preference for male workers is not based solely on sexist mindsets and attitudes; the abundance of male labour supply is also an important factor. The demand for female labour is low since there is ample supply of male labour, young and ready to work for any job. Employers do not want to bear costs associated with women’s reproductive activities such as pregnancy, maternal leave and child care. Also, hiring female employees is avoided so long as such conditions as long working hours and work in shifts are irreconcilable with women’s reproduction responsibilities.


For conclusion

In the import-substituting phase of Turkey’s development trajectory, women’s labour force participation remained very limited. At the first and second stages of import-substituting industrialization, the articulation between patriarchy and capitalism realized over women’s exclusion from labour market. In the period of export-oriented industrialization starting from the 80s, there is no significant increase in women’s participation to non-agricultural labour force. In spite of all incentives introduced in the context of macroeconomic policies pursued, there was no significant increase in private sector investments in manufacturing industry, transition from the first stage based on basic consumer goods to the second based on durables was in delay, industrial employment increased only a little and male dominant nature of industrial labour force remained as it had been. We can therefore say that the alliance between patriarchy and capitalism which excludes women from labour market and keeps them in domestic household works and responsibilities remains intact.

In the period after 1980, employment creation and combat against unemployment have never been among priority policies adopted by various governments and employment expansion has been left to the operation of market forces. The reflection of this policy stance to women’s employment is the State’s attitude not going beyond overall statements and not developing specific policies. If development plans are taken as major documents reflecting State’s stance in relation to female labour force and employment, we see the 6th Development Plan (1990-94) as the first document in which women were particularly mentioned. In this document, we see a general statement under the sub-heading “Family-Women-Children” saying that necessary environments would be provided to promote women’s employment in non-agricultural sectors.59 This attitude is also discernible in the plans of following years. In the 2000s along with the process of accession to the EU, we see more emphasis in all official documents on promoting women’s employment and two major suggestions were made for solution. The first one is the promotion of flexible forms of employment and encouraging women to take jobs in this context. The second is the support offered to female entrepreneurs.60 It is worth noting that forms of employment suggested for women are mainly those that can be carried on with their unpaid labour within family. In other words, the State finds it appropriate for women to take part-time, precarious or home based jobs with low remuneration so as not to disturb the consensus between capital and patriarchy.

Demographic and democratic factors that Turkey is facing today points to the need for change in this state of affairs. Parallel to falling fertility rates, the rate of population growth is also falling rapidly. However, according to population projections, the population at working ages in the age interval 15-64 will continue to grow, being 44 million in 2000, this population will reach its peak of 65.3 million in 2041, since members of this population group were born in a period when the rate of fertility was yet to fall. As long as this population has education and gets employment opportunities, this population group is regarded as “demographic window of opportunity.” The success of Eastern Asian Countries is attributed to their correct handling of this opportunity.61 The fact that Turkey has so far not been disturbed by too high rates of unemployment is the outcome of women’s exclusion from labour force as “housewives” on the basis of the alliance between capital and patriarchy. Yet, a democratic society targeting gender equality and governments committed to this have to endeavour for equal participation of men and women to education, training, employment and politics and try the elimination of gender-based division of labour. The priority issue in front of Turkey is the adoption of growth and development policies making labour force qualified and employable and the introduction of incentives and measures in industry and services sectors that uphold gender equality in employment and ensure women’s employment in decent works.


*Prof. Dr., Ankara Üniversitesi, Siyasal Bilgiler Fakültesi

1For a version of this article comprising more detailed statistics see Makal A. and Toksöz G. (eds), Geçmişten Günümüze Türkiye’de Kadın Emeği” (Ankara: Ankara Üniversitesi Yayınları, 2011) (in Turkish).

2For an article of the author addressing the supply dimension of female labour force besides demand see, “The State of Female Labour in the Impasse of Neoliberal Market and Patriarchal Family and Society” in Dedeoğlu S., Elveren A. (eds) Gender and Society in Turkey: The Impact of Neo-liberal Policies, Political Islam and EU Accession, (London, New York, I.B. Tairus, 2011).

3Gary Gereffi and Donald Wyman , eds. Manufacturing Miracles: Paths of Industrialization in Latin America and East Asia (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990). Cited by Gary Gereffi “The International Economy and Economic Development," Handbook of Economic Sociology, eds. Smelser N.J.. Swedberg R. (NY: Princeton University Press, 1995), 215.

4Gereffi “The International Economy," 215.

5Gereffi “The International Economy," 216.

6Ester Boserup. Woman’s Role in Economic Development, (NY: St. Martin Press, 1970), 106-117; Heleieth .I.B. Saffiotti, Women in Class Society, (NY, London: Monthly Review Press, 1978); Ruth Pearson, “Gender Issues in Industrialization," Industrialization and Development, eds. Hewitt Tom, Cassiolato J., Schmitz H. (USA: Oxford University Press, 1992), 173.

7Folker Fröbel, Jürgen Heinrichs, Otto Kreye, The new international division of labour, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980). Cited by William J. Coffey, “The ‘Newer’ International Division of Labour," eds. Lever W., Daniels P. The Global Economy in Transition, (London: Longman, 1996), 42.

8Gereffi “The International Economy," 216.

9Coffey “The ‘Newer’ International Division," 43.

10Henderson, Jeffrey. The Globalisation of High Technology Production: Society,Space and Semiconductors in the Making of the Modern World, (London: Routledge, 1989). Cited by Coffey “The ‘Newer’ International Division," 50-51.

11Günseli Berik “Mature Export-Led Growth and Gender Wage Inequality in Taiwan," Feminist Economics 6(3), (2000):5-6.

12Seguino, S. “Accounting for Gender in Asian Economic Growth” Feminist Economics 6(3), 2000:32.

13Seguino, “Acconting for Gender,” 36.

14Seguino, “Acconting for Gender,” 38.

15Berik. “Mature Export-Led Growth and Gender Wage Inequality in Taiwan," Feminist Economics 6, No.3, (2000):4-9.


16Massoud Karshenas and Valentine M. Moghadam. “Female Labor Force Participation and Economic Adjustment in the MENA Region," The Economics of Women and Work in the Middle East and North Africa, ed. Çınar Mine (Elsevier Science Research in Middle East Economics, Vol. 4, 2001): 62-64.

17Massoud Karshenas and Valentine M. Moghadam. “Female Labor Force Participation," 67.

18Valentine M. Moghadam “Women, Work and Economic Restructuring: A Regional Overview," The Economics of Women and Work in the Middle East and North Africa, ed. Çınar M. (Elsevier Science Research in Middle East Economics, Vol. 4, 2001):100-102.

19ILO. Women in labour markets: Measuring progress and identifying challenges, (Geneva: ILO, March 2010):89.

20Yakup Kepenek and Nurhan Yentürk. Türkiye Ekonomisi, (İstanbul: Remzi Kitabevi, 23.Basım, 2010):94-95.

21Kepenek and Yentürk. Türkiye Ekonomisi, 112-116.

22Kepenek and Yentürk. Türkiye Ekonomisi, 128.

23Ahmet Makal. Türkiye’de 1950-65 Döneminde Ücretli Kadın Emeğine İlişkin Gelişmeler," A.Ü. SBF Dergisi 56, No.2, (Nisan-Haziran 2001): 133.

24Makal. “Türkiye’de 1950-65 Döneminde,” 135.

25Makal. “Türkiye’de 1950-65 Döneminde,” 124.

26Makal. “Türkiye’de 1950-65 Döneminde,” 136.

27Makal. “Türkiye’de 1950-65 Döneminde,” 146-147. Since the labour code covers those enterprises employing at least ten workers there is no information on the number of women employed by smaller enterprises.

28Makal. “Türkiye’de 1950-65 Döneminde,” 144.

29Kepenek and Nurhan Yentürk. Türkiye Ekonomisi, 415-416.

30Ferhunde Özbay. “Kadınların Eviçi ve Evdışı Uğraşlarındaki Değişme," Kadın Bakış Açısından 1980'ler Türkiye'sinde Kadın, ed. Tekeli, Ş. (İstanbul: İletişim Yayınları, 1990):132-133.

31Gülten Kazgan.Türk Ekonomisinde Kadınların İşgücüne Katılması, Mesleki Dağılımı, Eğitim Düzeyi ve Sosyo-Ekonomik Statüsü," Türk Toplumunda Kadın, ed. Abadan-Unat N. (İstanbul Araştırma, Eğitim, Ekin Yayınları, Türk Sosyal Bilimler Derneği, 1982:164-165.

32Kazgan. “Türk Ekonomisinde Kadınların,” 144.

33Hacer Ansal, Suat Küçükçiftçi, Özlem Onaran, Benan Zeki Orbay. Türkiye Emek Piyasasının Yapısı ve İşsizlik (İstanbul: FES, Tarih Vakfı, 2000):68; Kepenek and Yentürk. Türkiye Ekonomisi, 505.

34Gül Ergil. “Üç Beş Yıllık Kalkınma Planlarında Kadınlara İlişkin Siyasalar ve Dolaylı Sonuçları," Türk Toplumunda Kadın, ed. Abadan-Unat N. (İstanbul Araştırma, Eğitim, Ekin Yayınları, Türk Sosyal Bilimler Derneği, 1982):215.

35Özbay. Kadınların Eviçi ve Evdışı,” 134.

36Kepenek and Yentürk. Türkiye Ekonomisi, 417-418.

37Fikret Şenses. Structural Adjustment Policies and Employment in Turkey, (Ankara: METU Economic Research Center, 1996):8-11.

38Özlem Onaran. “Türkiye’de İhracat Yönelimli Büyüme Politikalarının İstihdam Üzerindeki Etkileri," İktisadi Kalkınma, Kriz ve İstikrar, eds. Köse A. H., Şenses F., Yeldan Erinç (İstanbul:İletişim Yayınları 2003):583.

39DPT. Beşinci Kalkınma Planı (1985-1989), www.dpt.gov.tr (1984):131. Cited by Yakup Kepenek, Nurhan Yentürk. Türkiye Ekonomisi, 490.

40Yakup Kepenek, Nurhan Yentürk. Türkiye Ekonomisi, 603-604.

41Güven Sak, Ozan Acar, Burcu Afyonoğlu. 22 Temmuz 2007 Seçimlerinin Ardından İkinci Nesil Reform Sürecinin Özellikleri Raporu, www.tepav.org (28.8.2007); TEPAV. Türkiye’nin Rekabet Gücü İçin Sanayi Politikası Çerçevesi, Ekonomi Etüdleri, www.tepav.org, (1.7.2007).

42Fikret Şenses. “The Stabilization and Structural Adjustment Program and the Process of Turkish Industrialization: Main Policies and Their Impact," Recent Industrialization Experience of Turkey in a Global Context, ed. Şenses Fikret (London: Greenwood Press, 1994):65; Erinç Yeldan. Küreselleşme Sürecinde Türkiye Ekonomisi, (İstanbul: İletişim Yayınları, 2001):144-146.

43Fikret Şenses. Alternative Trade and Industrialization and Employment in the Turkish Manufacturing Sector, (İstanbul: FES, 1990); Şenses. Structural Adjustment Policies and Employment in Turkey, 20.

44Nurhan Yentürk. “Türk İmalat Sanayinde Ücretler, İstihdam ve Verimlilik," Türk-İş Yıllığı’99, (Ankara: Türk-İş, 1999):176.; Hacer Ansal, Suat Küçükçiftçi, Özlem Onaran, Benan Zeki Orbay. Türkiye Emek Piyasasının Yapısı ve İşsizlik, 128; Onaran. Türkiye’de İhracat Yönelimli Büyüme Politikalarının İstihdam Üzerindeki Etkileri” 598.

45Maraşlıoğlu Hayri, Tıktık Ahmet. Türkiye Ekonomisinde Sektörel Gelişmeler: Üretim, Sermaye Birikim ve İstihdam, 1968-1988, (Ankara: DPT, 1991). Cited by Fikret Şenses. Structural Adjustment Policies and Employment in Turkey,15,19.

46Tuncer Bulutay.Kriz ve Kriz Sonrası Ekonomi ve Finansta Olası Gelişmeler," Mülkiye Yaz/2009, No. 263; Mustafa Durmuş. “Kapitalizmin Krizi ve Türkiye’ye Yansımaları," Mülkiye Yaz/2009, No. 263; MAR (Mülkiye Araştırma Merkezi) “2008 Yılı Katılım Öncesi Ekonomik Programı” Makroekonomik Çerçevesinin Değerlendirilmesi, (Kriz Çalışma Grubu, Temmuz 2009).

47Kazgan. “Türk Ekonomisinde Kadınların,” 164; Gülay Toksöz.Women’s Employment Situation in Turkey, (Ankara: ILO, 2007):27.

48According to TÜİK’s Household Labour Force Surveys the number of women employed in manufacturing industry is 815,000 and men is 3,517,000 in October 2007.. (www.tuik.gov.tr)

49TÜİK Yıllık Sanayi ve Hizmet İstatistikleri (www.tuik.gov.tr)

50Hacer Ansal. “Küreselleşme, Sanayide Teknolojik Modernizasyon ve Kadın İstihdamı," Kadın Emeği ve İstihdamındaki Değişmeler, ed. Özbay F. (İstanbul: KSSGM, İnsan Kaynağını Geliştirme Vakfı, 1998).

51Meryem Koray, Sevda Demirbilek, Tunç Demirbilek. Gıda İşkolunda Çalışan Kadınların Koşulları ve Geleceği, (Ankara: KSSGM, 1999).

52Ayda Eraydın. “Ekonomik Başarının Yükünü Üstlenenler: Dış Pazarlarda Rekabet Gücü Kazanan Konfeksiyon Sanayinde Kadın Emeği," Kadın Emeği ve İstihdamındaki Değişmeler, ed. Özbay F. (İstanbul: KSSGM, İnsan Kaynağını Geliştirme Vakfı, 1998).

53Saniye Dedeoğlu. “Endüstriyel Üretimde Kadın ve Göçmen Emeği: Ataerkillik ve Enformel Emek," Kapitalizm, Ataerkillik ve Kadın Emeği, eds. Dedeoğlu S., Yaman Öztürk M. (İstanbul:SAV, 2010).

54DPT. 2010 Yılı Programı, www.dpt.gov.tr, 157-158.

55DPT. 2010 Yılı Programı,32.

56TÜİK Yıllık Sanayi ve Hizmet İstatistikleri (www.tuik.gov.tr)

57Cem Başlevent, Özlem Onaran. “The Effect of Export-Oriented Growth on Female Labor Market Outcomes in Turkey," World Development, 32, No.8, (2004).

58Gülay Toksöz. Labour Markets in Crisis Conditions from a Gender Perspective, www.ilo.org/ankara, (2009); Ayşe Buğra. Toplumsal Cinsiyet, İşgücü Piyasaları ve Refah Rejimleri: Türkiye’de Kadın İstihdamı, (İstanbul: TÜBİTAK Projesi, 2010).

59DPT. Altıncı Kalkınma Planı (1990-1994), www.dpt.gov.tr (1989):287.

60Toksöz, Women’s Employment Situation, 50-51.

61Şeref Hoşgör and Aysıt Tansel, 2050’ye Doğru Nüfusbilim ve Yönetim, (İstanbul: TÜSİAD-BMNF, 2010).



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