By: Melis Figanmese
The UNDP 2013 Human Development Report focuses on the economic growth of developing nations and factors that have significant impact in this progress. Turkey is consistently referred to as a nation in the South that has boomed economically over the past years, but is still socially lagging behind other traditionally North states.
The Report states that as GDPs begin to rise in all corners of the world, there are more factors to take into consideration when assessing the ‘rising’ of a nation. If statistics told the whole story of human development, then we could say ‘the world is becoming less unequal’. However, national averages have the tendency to hide ‘large variations in human experience’. This is true both for countries in the North and the South as large income disparities are becoming more apparent.
As is the case in Turkey, further growth in the South is possible, but is unlikely if inequality and environmental destruction are not ‘moved to the forefront of policy discussions’.
Cevdet Yilmaz, the Minister of Development, Turkey, stated that in 2002, Turkey’s government spending on social protection was at 12%, less than half of the EU’s average. He states that through increased pressure on social policies there has been a significant poverty reduction. The share of the population living on less than $4.30/day (Turkish government’s poverty threshold) fell from 30% in 2002 to 3.7% in 2010. However, this number does not take into consideration the increase in rural poverty in Turkey since 2006. When these factors are taken into consideration, Turkey’s overall poverty level is at 18%.
Additionally, Turkey can no longer be equated to other developing nations. According to her GDP, Turkey is a middle income country, and is rising the ladder quickly. In comparison to other OECD member countries, Turkey has the highest poverty rate. Despite Turkey’s strong GDP, their spending on social expenditures is still approximately half of what other OECD countries are spending.
So, what should Turkey be doing?
The report suggests that sustainability and the furthering of development can be achieved through four important areas: enhancing equity, enabling voice and participation, confronting environmental pressures and managing demographic change. If we relate the report’s findings to Turkey in order to create an environment for sustainable growth, we should first ‘enhance equity’. To do this, we must promote education throughout the country to both men and women. The UNDP specifically points out that a mother’s education, above all, benefits her entire family. By excluding the female demographic, a less educated population will create an unlikely scenario for growth. As Turkish youth enters the labor force, the country must take advantage of the increase in both sexes of human capital. While countries in the OECD’s female labor participation rate has steadily increased over the years, Turkey stands alone as the only country with decreasing female labor participation.
Meanwhile, as the Report states, Turkey must empower youth to raise their voice and enable their political participation. With Turkey’s growing young population, political involvement of male and female youth is crucial to have an impact on future policymaking, i.e. increased social expenditure.
Turkey is slowly becoming a model of a rising South state. Other countries will look to follow in her lead. However, while actions have been taken to decrease the national average of poverty, without significant social action, in particular, in education, the country’s growth will not continue with the same gusto with which it currently boasts.
To read the 2013 UNDP Human Development Report click here.
To view a list of TPF projects that support Gender Equality in Turkey, click here.
To visit Turkey’s leading youth participation organization’s page, click here.
To visit TPF’s projects that support Education in Turkey, click here.