Human development and gender equality is still an issue in Turkey. In 2013, Turkey ranks 69th according to United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Human Development Index and Gender Inequality Index. Although there was significant improvement in 2012 compared to previous year, improvement in 2013 is negligible.
Labor force participation is an important component of Gender Inequality Index and means the percentage of working-age persons (15 and above) in the economy who are either employed or unemployed and looking for a job. Employment rate represent persons in employment as a percentage of the population of working age (15-64 years). Employment rate includes both formal and informal employment.
Urbanization in Turkey started in the middle of last century. Share of urban population reached to 75% today, compared to 25% in 1950s.
Last decades, services sector became the primary source of increasing demand for female labor. Improvements in the educational attainment of women after 1990s, as a result elevated age of marriage, reduction in fertility and the increase in retirement age are believed to reverse the negative trend in women participation.
Women entrepreneurs are often comprising employers or business owners with at least 30% share, top managers, self-employed with or without employees.
Total early-stage Entrepreneurial Activity (TEA) ratio of GEM compares the entrepreneurship level of 82 countries.
3.a- Familial Obligations
Most of the working women faces the difficulty of balancing their work and familial obligations. Traditional division of labor at home affects women labor force participation decision at particular stages of life.
Unmarried and married Turkish women have different priorities while seeking jobs.
In Turkey decent and reliable childcare is rare to find and the reliable ones are very expensive
Like many others in the world, Turkish women are traditionally expected to be housewives and take care child or elderly regardless of their level of education. Owning a business or working outside home is still perceived to be against society's values.
Lack of support from the family is a main source of discouragement. In Turkey, even though women have a work before getting married, they tend to quit their jobs after being married or having child.
The labor market in Turkey is more flexible today but has not reached the desired level. Temporary, part-time or work-at-home type of works are not built-in the labor market or social security system yet.
Women have continued to primarily work in services sector, in labor intensive manufacturing sectors and agriculture. Gender segregation has also been observed in promotions and work sharing.
Furthermore, pressure of large number of unemployed men, existence of informal economy and possibility of quitting due to family reasons keep the price of female labor low.
3.e- Access to Finance
Access to finance in Turkey is known as a major barrier to establish small business both for women and men.
These problems are also related to the fact that most women who attempt to start businesses do not have sufficient experience and education.
On the other hand, familial obligations of women have an impact on the businesses they choose.
Gender equality in employment gained importance in Turkey's public policy framework since 1990s. MoFSP officials list the major legal reforms last decade as constitutional amendments and changes in the Civil Code, Labor Law and Penal Code. Accession negotiations started in 2005 with European Union and the screening process between 2005-2006 created a momentum towards gender equality, not only in the labor market but in all areas of life.
MoFSP officials state that Prime Ministry circular in May 2010 titled "Increasing Female Employment and Ensuring Equal Opportunities" is another milestone.
4.b- Training & Technical Assistance
There are many training programs initiated by public or private institutions.
MoNE also works on adapting entrepreneurship concept to fundamental education system.
Small and Medium Enterprises Development Organization (KOSGEB) has coordinated the process. TESAP targets:
• Developing an entrepreneur-friendly regulator environment
• Supporting innovative entrepreneurship
• Developing and implementing a sustainable incentive system in general and for women, young, environmental, social and global entrepreneurship
• Enhancing the entrepreneurship culture
• Expanding the early-age entrepreneurship education and developing consultancy system for entrepreneurs
• Easing the access to finance
64 actions in total defined under these strategic targets. 4 of these are related to women. First, regulatory framework will consider women entrepreneurship perspective. Second, "Women Entrepreneur Ambassadors" project will be extended. Third, education need for women will be analyzed. And finally, research will be carried out for women entrepreneurs' problems.
Starting from late 2000s, Turkey put a special emphasis on the support to entrepreneurs. As of today, incentives from public funds, venture capital, angel investors for start-ups, public or private bank funds, capital markets, leasing or factoring and credit guarantees are the major tools for financing of entrepreneurial activity in Turkey.
On the other hand, "Financial Access, Financial Education and Financial Consumer Protection Strategy and Action Plans" were announced in June 2014. Strategy aims to enhance financial inclusion through education and awareness rise, and also improve the quality and use of current financial products.
In the next section, some of noteworthy public or private initiatives with financial support
There are three components of this program: Applied Entrepreneurship Training, New Entrepreneur Support and BIC Support.
New Entrepreneur Support is in the form of loan or grant to the graduates of Applied Entrepreneurship Training or similar programs, and owners of enterprises in the BICs. KOSGEB gives priority to innovative, high value-added and export oriented business ideas.
The third and last component is BIC Supports in the form of grant. This component targets municipalities, universities, special administrations, development unions, professional organizations and non-profit organizations who want to establish and manage their own business incubators. Business incubators provide consultancy, networking, site and shared equipment and services at early stages of enterprises.
The support program run by the Ministry of Family and Social Policy (MoFSP) as a poverty relief instrument to eliminate dependency on social aid. The program defines its mission as social inclusion of the poor, turning them into productive individuals, ensuring sustainable income through projects in the urban or rural areas.
Eligible projects should require skills, be labor intensive and fit the local conditions technically and economically. The relevant product or service should have local sales and marketing potential.
The loans are so-called soft loans, with 8-11 years of maturity without interest.
In order to assess the contribution of the program to social inclusion, MoFSP and the Boğaziçi University concluded an impact analysis study in December 2014. However, results are not published yet.
Ministry of Labor and Social Protection (MoLSS), developed a program called "Human Resources Development Operational Program" to increase efficiency in the labor market. There are two projects prevailing under this program.
Promoting Women's Employment Operation: One of the priority axis of the Operational Program is employment and under this axis the first measure is to promote women's participation into the labor market, and increase female employment, including those formerly employed in agriculture. Within this framework, İşkur undertook "Promoting Women's Employment (PWE) Operation" project during 2009-2013 period.
Including the grants provided by the European Union, budget of the project is about €27 million. Geographical target of the project is east half of Turkey where labor force participation is low.
Like most of the other initiatives, there is no impact assessment study or follow up mechanism about the project.
Child Care Support: Another EU–Turkey co-financed support program is launched in March 2015 by Social Security Institution (SSI) of MoLSS. Women Employment Support by Child Care Services at Home Project is a pilot project to be run in three provinces. SSI will pay €300 each month to the working mothers with child younger than 2 years old, in order to increase women's labor force participation.
(1) Turkish Grameen Microcredit Program-TISVA & Grameen Bank
Turkish Foundation for Waste Reduction (TISVA) and Grameen Bank founded a joint venture and established its first branch in Diyarbakır, the biggest city of South East Turkey in 2003.
Program's initial basic loan limit is TL1,000 (approx. €300) for the first year. If the recipient repays the loan in 10.5 months, they become eligible for additional TL1,000 every year. TGMP Ankara office representatives indicate that program achieved high repayment rate. Repaid amounts are used for new loans, thus provide sustainability for the program.
(2) The First Step Credit-Halkbank
Halkbank is a major bank in Turkey that focuses on loans to SMEs.
In 2013-2014, the bank introduced a line of credit to women entrepreneurs that do not have collateral. Semi-public Credit Guarantee Fund (CGF) of Turkey provided guarantee to the bank for these credits.
Line of credit closed in mid-2014. The qualified businesses are mostly in services sector, like preschools, catering, dry cleaning etc. Limit of the program was €30 million but a total of €4 million of financing is provided to 620 establishments, which is about 13% of the limit. MoSFP experts claim that extensive paperwork and heavy conditions of CGF limited the interest for entrepreneurs.
(3) Finance and Advice for Women in Business-EBRD
In October 2014, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Delegation of the European Union to Turkey, MoLSS of Turkey and İşkur launched a new program called "Finance and Advice to Women in Business". EBRD implemented the program first in Turkey.
5- PROFILE OF WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS
Starting from 1990s, there were many attempts to indicate the profiles, characteristics and problems women entrepreneurs by local or country-wide surveys. Better understanding would lead to correct policy suggestions. In this section, findings of two most recent surveys will be elaborated.
5.a - Middle East Technical University (METU):
METU academicians conducted a survey in 2014 among 304 women entrepreneurs supported by Turkish Garanti Bank's loans. According to survey, the main problems while establishing the business are; implementing the work, access to finance, administrative burden, being a woman and finally the balance between business and family life.
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