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German Turkish Masters Program in Social Sciences Course ID: GTSS 502 Instructors: Prof. Dr. Helga

German Turkish Masters Program in Social Sciences Course ID: GTSS 502 Instructors: Prof. Dr. Helga Rittersberger-TILIC

Positioning the Turkish Welfare Regime in the European Context

The influence of the European Social Model on Turkish welfare state transformation

Stefan Kohlwes Student ID: 1714617 Stefan.kohlwes@gmail.com

Ankara 10 June 2010


1. Introduction


2. European Welfare Regimes – convergence or divergence?



The European Social Model



Conclusion: is the European Social Model really a model?


3. The Turkish Welfare Regime:


3.1 A short historical background of the Turkish Welfare State


3.2 Three informal channels of welfare provision


3.3 The deficits of the Turkish Social System:


3.4 Turkey’s welfare regime in transition - social security reform:


4. Where to converge to? A tentative conclusion



1. Introduction

This paper provides a case study of the Turkish welfare regime in a comparative perspective. The aim is not merely to analyze the path that Turkey has embarked upon with the recent reform packages under the government of the Justice and Development Party (AKP – Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi). In the framework of the accession negotiations with the European Union, it is furthermore our concern to evaluate to what extent an influence of current debates on the European Welfare States and in specific on a “European Social Model” can be retraced within the process of welfare state transformation in Turkey.

As will be shown, Turkey provides a very interesting and distinct example of welfare regimes in transition. The prevailing perception in the literature describes the welfare state as a European invention. Having its origins in industrialization and the rise of social tensions, it has come to be a highly institutionalized component of European state tradition. Many scholars, however, see the welfare state currently under sever attack by the continuing promotion of a neoliberal agenda as well as by economical, social and political questions and predicaments generally associated with the notion of globalization. Turkey, as a country positioned at the periphery of geographical as well as political Europe, emerged from a state tradition interlinked with European countries yet highly distinct from them at the same time. Even though political concepts of modernization and westernization have shaped the path Turkey has taken over the last century, the provision of welfare services especially in the field of social security has not played a prominent role until now but is more and more to be seen on the political agenda. Public spending on welfare is among the lowest in the OECD countries. Thus, whereas cuts in public spending and especially in welfare are discussed and promoted in most European countries, Turkey is in a different position. A formal welfare regime is yet to be constructed and even though the struggle for greater efficiency certainly plays a role, even admonishers of budget discipline and public spending cuts such as the World Bank and the IMF advice Turkey to increase their spending on welfare provision.

Might Turkey, still highly mobile as to its low degree of institutionalization and allegedly being influenced by European ideas, even mirror the vision of how the European Union pictures its future welfare states to be?


Considering this rather broad conceptual question, the aim within the scope of this paper cannot be to provide a detailed evaluation of specific reforms in a certain domain of the welfare state. A short introduction about the current debates of (European) welfare tradition and a discussion about a common European conception of the welfare state coined with the concept “European Social Model” shall provide the framework. An evaluation of the historical legacies of state-society and state-market traditions, the most pressing socio- economic and structural shortcomings and finally the transformation under the AKP-led government shall put the Turkish welfare state into (European) perspective. In the conclusion the question will be discussed whether Turkey converges towards a “European Social Model.”

2. European Welfare Regimes – convergence or divergence?

The main aim of this brief introduction on European welfare regimes is to put the following chapters into a balanced perspective. Emphasis will be put on outlining the debate about divergences and trends of convergence among European welfare regimes. This will be done not only in order to frame the discussion about an alleged “European Social Model” but also to carve out some crucial differences between most European welfare regimes and the Turkish one.

The dominant narrative within the literature discussing the development of welfare states considers the welfare state as a European and a capitalist invention. The German Reichskanzler Otto von Bismarck was the first to introduce a system of work-based social insurance in times of not only rising social tensions in the course of the industrialization- induced social questions but also in times of hardening class-divisions and the political mobilization of the working class. In the meantime, welfare provision by the state has come to be seen as an essential part of modern states. Still, the discussion about the welfare states origins and its aims has never ebbed away and is reaching in fact new peaks. Whereas the formerly critical social democracy has come to identify itself with the welfare state, orthodox Marxian scholars regard welfare policies as designed by the state to appease the working class and thus continuously solidify the existing capitalist system and smoothening/concealing its inherent unjust social relations and contradictions. The conservative narrative, meanwhile, regards welfare as an unaffordable social cost and as having a detrimental impact on individual morality and motivation.


Notwithstanding this ongoing and crucial debate, there are two ideas dominating the current

discourse about the laws behind the development of welfare states. The first idea is related to

Esping-Anderson’s prominent typology of welfare regimes focusing on path-dependent

development and the ensuing immobility of welfare states due to high degrees of

institutionalization (Achterberg & Yerkes 2009: 1; Myles & Pierson 2001: 312 ff). In alleged

contrast, the second idea is that with modernization, countries are growing more alike. Thus,

the convergence thesis argues that gradually welfare states tend to converge with each other.

Both ideas shall be discussed briefly:

The concept of “welfare regime” is defined in terms of the different roles that institutions such

as the state, the family, and the labor market play in sustaining the livelihood of the individual

in society (Grütjen 2008: 113). Esping-Anderson introduced this concept and defined three

types of welfare regime in developed Western countries: the market-oriented Anglo-Saxon

model; the conservative model, which is institutionalized on the basis of employment and the

supporting role of the family; and the Scandinavian model where a universal approach based

on equal citizenship is of great importance for the design of social policies. Later, a forth type

based on special characteristics of southern-European countries was added to Esping-

Andersons typology 1 . At the latest since the international (Western) paradigmatic shift in

political economy which occurred in the late 1970s and early 1980s in the course of financial

crises and increasing impact of globalization, all models faced, albeit as a matter of fact to

quite different extents, a set of problems deriving from developments which were everything

but limited to the national sphere: demographic trends leading to the ageing of population and

changes in family structures; the emergence of post-industrial service economies; flexible

production patterns replacing the Fordist production system, and changing labour markets

state policies in the light of enhanced international competition (Buğra & Keyder 2003: 12 ff).

1 As the Turkish welfare regime is usually categorized within that last, fourth type, it shall be discussed more thoroughly at a later point. Concerning the critique on Esping- Andersons typology see: Arts, Wil; Gelissen, John (2002) Three worlds of welfare capitalism or more? A state-of-the-art report in: Journal of European Social Policy 12. pp.



It is those shared factors pressing for change and the emergence of a neoliberal agenda

promoted as an international remedy that gave rise to the second idea of increasing convergence. Within that context, A strong narrative is that generous social provision in the

context of global economic change represents an unaffordable luxury for advanced industrial societies. There is thus a widespread perception that the changing global environment fosters

a “race to the bottom” and leads to a much more modest level of social provision.

Convergence is hence perceived as leading towards a kind of “neo-liberal welfare state”

(Achterberg 2009: 4).

Besides alleged institutional obstacles opposed to the implementation of more stringent common social policies on a European level, it is exactly the question connected to this assumption which is crucial. How do policy and decision makers in the EU picture a common social model to be? The definition of European minimum standards of welfare that states

should provide its citizens would be in line with the neoliberal ideology in case the minimum

is set low enough and would at the same time pay credit to the still very different national

setting in the 27 EU member states. On the other hand, what would be the use of such a minimum standard obligation? In the scope of this paper it is only to a limited extent possible

to retrace the multi-faceted debate on the “European Social Model.” As bureaucratic and legal

question are of immense complexity, the following paragraph will mainly focus on sketching general ideas on European welfare on the one hand and on the feasibility that the concept has impact on the transformation process in Turkey as a candidate for full membership.

2.1 The European Social Model

„For some in the EU the expression „European Social Model“ evokes warm feelings of social justice and solidarity. For others, it just raises the blood pressure“ (Anna Diamantopoulou – Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs, Labour


Is the European Union with its conception of a European Social Model a factor actively

“producing” convergence? Before we approach an answer with reference to the Turkish case we shall first clarify if there is enough convergence, i.e. agreement between the 27 member states in terms of social policies to define a relative coherent European Social Model.


The first treaties of Rome leading to the creation of the European Economic Community did not attempt to harmonize policy fields such as social regulations or taxation. The following process of European integration from Rome over the Single European Act to Maastricht and its commitment to the European Monetary Union was exclusively framed by considerations of market integration and liberalization (Scharpf 2002: 646 ff.). The heterogeneity of welfare states increased with each new member state. While at the national level economic policy and policies concerning social protection still have more or less the same constitutional status, the European integration process was foremost concerned with removing tariff barriers, liberalizing state-owned industries and infrastructure functions, eliminating national control over exchange rates and monetary policy and finally, with the very important stability and growth pact, rigidly constraining public sector deficits of its member states. It was thus foremost economic integration and its inherent economic aims and not social policy consciously dealing with and targeting social problems that effected social policies in member countries. Until today, the European integration process has created a blatant “constitutional asymmetry” between policies promoting market efficiencies and policies promoting social protection and equality. National welfare states are constitutionally constrained by the “supremacy” of all European rules of economic integration, liberalization and competition law. At the same time they must operate under the fiscal rules of monetary union while their revenue base is eroding as a consequence of tax competition and the “need” to reduce non- wage labor costs (Scharpf 2002: 666).

As a consequence of that imbalance and the great diversity of welfare regimes among the 27 EU member states, a uniform European legislation in field of the social-policy has hardly exceeded the relatively low minimal standards that are acceptable to all Member States.

Yet, even though a European Social Model is currently much more defined by soft law, policy recommendations and joint commitments to certain values than by accountable law (to use this neoliberal jargon), it is used in White Papers of the European Commission as a concept and is constant object of discussion. Politically, it is foremost used to highlight common European patterns in contrast to those in the USA, Russia or Latin America but it is also presented as a necessary counterweight to the process of economic integration (Manning 2007: 493).


General objectives in terms of social policy and the vision of a “Social Europe” have been formulated in many treaties, charters and international agreements. The treaty establishing the European Community (TEC) set down fundamental social objectives such as the “promotion of employment”, “improved living and working conditions” … “proper social protection”, “dialogue between management and labor” or “the development of human resources with a view to lasting high employment and the combating of exclusion.” The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights includes chapters on freedoms, equality and solidarity, rights to fair and just working conditions, social security and social assistance, equality between men and women or trade union rights. 2 The European Trade Union Confederation meanwhile formulates even more broadly the principles of the European Social Model as “creating a more equal society” by “ending poverty and poverty wages”, “guaranteeing fundamental human rights”, “essential services and an income that enables every individual to live in dignity. 3

Further more or less concrete regulations have been part of succeeding Treaties such as the Social Protocol of the Maastricht Treaty in 1992 with its “formulation of standards” on working time and equal opportunity regulations, or in the “social acquis” as part of the acquis communautaire defining “obligations” in the framework of individual employment (contracts and relationships of employment, discrimination, equal treatment, health and safety at work) and collective labor relations (worker representation, information and consultation, collective redundancy). Moreover, in the Lisbon European Council in 2007, the aim to reach a greater convergence in terms of social policy was explicitly stated and a method to reach that aim was agreed upon: the “open method of coordination”. While leaving effective policy choices at the national level, it tries to improve these through promoting common objectives and common indicators and through comparative evaluations of national policy performance.

2 Consolidated versions of the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty on the functioning of the European Union & Charter of fundamental Rights of the European Union: http://eur- lex.europa.eu/JOHtml.do?uri=OJ:C:2010:083:SOM:EN:HTML (accessed: 5 June 2010)

3 The European Trade Union Confederation on the European Social Model: http://www.etuc.org/a/2771



Conclusion: is the European Social Model really a model?

It is claimed here that the European Social Model exists foremost because it is used as a concept in official documents of the European Commission. While there is indeed, as Scharpf has stated, a blatant “constitutional asymmetry” between social and economic regulations and legislation, the character of a European Social Model seems to be relatively distinct. Even if the term “European Social Model” escapes precise definition, and even though it tends to conceal the vast differences between the 27 member welfare states, it has, as a model, “anticipatory” and “aspirational” character (Diamantopoulou 2003: 3). Similar to expressions such as “European Union” or “Common Foreign and Security Policy”, the word “model” hints at a progressive real convergence of views among member states on general aims which they seek to achieve in employment and social policy. To what extent a European Social Model could also build a future counterweight vis-à-vis the contradictions of neoliberalism seems to be a justified question. In its whole design to stress the coexistence and in fact interdependence of “economic growth” and “social justice” 4 and “competitiveness” and “solidarity”, reminds as in fact of the neoliberal jargon in its “third way-design”.

3. The Turkish Welfare Regime:

The structure and expansion of welfare states depends on socioeconomic factors, ideology, tradition, as well as the level of economic development. The following evaluation of the Turkish welfare regime and the recent reforms of the social security system shall thus take into account both, specific national characteristics as well as the context of global and European trends in the last three decades which some refer to as the decline of welfare states. After a short overview over Turkey’s recent economic history under the influence of globalization and neoliberalism, the emphasis will be put on sketching the Turkish Welfare regime in its broad characteristics as well as on defining the biggest challenges. A short evaluation of the recent reforms will be made in order to be able to define a “direction” of Turkish social policies.

4 As a neoliberal term



A short historical background of the Turkish Welfare State

Turkey’s encounter with neoliberalism pretty much occurred at the same time as in Europe, where the politics of Keynesian demand management and comparatively expansive state regulation were abandoned to shift towards a new dogma/conceptualization of (re-) commodification of labor and dis-organization of capitalism in the 1980s 5 ; a move connected to its most prominent and radical precursors Margaret Thatcher in Great Britain and Ronald Reagan in the USA. Turkey has until then had a long tradition of etatism, a large public sector and high figures of state-owned enterprises. Steps of privatization and liberalization had been incremental and always accompanied by severe political tensions. The reforms and programs implemented at the beginning of the 1980s thus signaled a dramatic shift in the state’s role in market and society and its economic policies which had sever effects on the structure of the Turkish labor market. Very different from most European countries, however, the emergence of neoliberalism did not come along with calls to “dismantle the welfare state.” 6 This derives from the fact that the Turkish Welfare Regime was not and still is not nearly comparable to European states in its attempt to guarantee “individuals and families a minimum level of income, to provide some safety mechanism against social contingencies (inability to earn income when sick or old), and ensure some equality concerning social services” (Asa Briggs in: Elveren 2008: 213).

Different attempts have been made to classify Turkey’s welfare regime. With reference to Esping-Andersons typology, Turkey is usually classified as belonging to the Southern- European type. 7 In the following, we will make use of a terminology provided by Elveren on the one hand and Buğra & Keyder on the other. Both terms stress the same characteristic

5 See for example: Bob Jessop (2002) The Keynesian Welfare National State and The Schumpeterian Competition State in: The Future of Capitalist State, Politiy Press, pp. 55-139. Cambridge.

6 „Dismantling the Welfare State“ is an expression frequently used in the literature to refer to the impact of neoliberal policies on the welfare states. Most prominent among them; Paul Pierson (1996) “Dismantling the Welfare State? Reagan, Thatcher and the politics of Retrenchment.” Cambridge University Press. Cambridge.

7 See for example Grütjen, Daniel (2009) The Turkish Welfare Regime: An Example of the Southern European Model? The Role of the State, Market and Family in Welfare Provision in: Turkish Policy quarterly, vol. 7 no.1, pp. 111 – 129, Duyulmus, Cem Utku (2009) Social Security Reform in Turkey: Different usages of Europe in shaping the national welfare reform


which has also been widely discussed as being part other Soutern-European countries such as Spain, Greece or Portugal. Elveren refers to Turkey –being a “developing country” – as an “indirect and minimalist welfare regime” (Elveren 2008: 214). Buğra & Keyder meanwhile use the term “inegalitarian corporatist welfare regime”(Buğra, Keyder 2006: 211). The characteristics of the Turkish welfare regime which lie behind both terms shall be topic of this chapter. Wheras Elverens terminology hints at the fact that the state, as one possible provider of welfare along with the market and informal networks, is attributed (as a matter of fact, it attributes itself) a small, subordinate role, Buğra & Keyder stress the problem inherent in an inegalitarian system, priviledging particular interests.

The formal social security system is characterized as a highly fragmented and hierarchical system of a corporatist character which provides combined health and pension benefits to formally employed heads of household according to their status at work. Given that the labor market structure has long been and still is characterized by its high figures of informally employed as well as unpaid family labor, the current system cannot achieve coverage for a sufficiant part of the Turkish population. A universal social assistance scheme tied to citizenship as existent in most European countries, does not exist. Considering the wide- spread assessment that industrialized and democratic states need a broad welfare regime to reproduce itself, it is necessary to contemplate the specific character of the informal channels of welfare provision in Turkey that have played and are partially still playing a great role in keeping relative stability in spite of the severe socio-economic impact of Turkey’s neoliberal course change in the 1980s and 1990s.

3.2 Three informal channels of welfare provision

Buğra & Keyder define the three most important channels of welfare provision as the “continuing ties of newly urbanized immigrants with their villages of origin”, “possibilities of informal housing” and foremost the importance of family and neighborhood assistance mechanisms” (B&K 2006: 220). The long and to some extent still persisting durability of those channels can to some extent be explained by the specific dynamic of the rural urban- divide and the character of urbanization in Turkey. The Turkish labor market is characterized by a relatively high significance of agricultural employment still comprising about 40% of the workforce (B&K 2003: 16). Whereas many family members migrate to cities, the money earned, predominantly through informal employment, is often a contribution to the family’s


common income. That means at the same time that many urban immigrants can still rely on mutual forms of assistance being provided by the family. The second factor might be called – in Elveren’s words – an indirect provision of welfare by the state. Before the 1980s, urban immigrants had the possibility to occupy public land in the periphery of cities. Thus, they were not only “provided” with free housing. Through eventual formalization of those occupied spaces they also became owners of land and real estate, thus disposing of a source of wealth and social security. These so-called gecekondu were furthermore “mechanisms” that could transfer whole networks of family and neighborhood from the countryside into the city, thus maintaining a system of informal mutual assistance and social security. The official “moral legitimacy” the gecekondu had enjoyed, however, started to erode during the 1990s when an increasingly affluent middle class started to be tended by the real estate market thereby commodifying land that had thereto served as a source of social security for relatively indigent urban migrants. The family is the third and most important pillar of informal welfare provision in Turkey (a common and crucial feature of the Southern European welfare state). Even though family and neighborhood assistance also practically continues to be an important source of social security, developments exceeding the Turkish case such as declining birth rates and the increasing dwindling of the extended to the nuclear family in the urban context has put further pressure on Turkey’s informal, “traditional” channels of welfare provision (World Bank 2005 in Grütjen 2008: 3). In spite of those developments, the family continues to be regarded as the key element of the Turkish welfare system.

The state for a long time having been an “employer of last resort” with its state-owned enterprises, agricultural policies that have contributed to the survival of small family farms, or the gecekondu solution to the urban housing problem do not constitute a formal policy of income and employment but they have been successful in keeping unemployment and worse forms of poverty under control. They have also kept in place a socioeconomic order where family solidarity could compensate for the absence of a formal security system that could effectively deal with risk situations such as unemployment, sickness or age (Buğra 2003:


Buğra & Keyder, Elveren and Yeldan all stress the role of the neoliberal transformation as having deteriorating effects not only on the Turkish economy and the structure of the Turkish labor market but also on the hitherto existing informal channels of welfare provision. Being


exposed to hard competition from abroad and to the logic of international finance, Turkey had and still has severe problems to maintain traditional forms of welfare policies as well as to adapt to the socio-political challenges that come along with privatization, liberalization but also a new type of urbanization.

In many different areas, Turkey – to use a political jargon – “lacks behind” in terms of tackling those challenges and social problems. World Bank reports on the Turkish and regular assessments of the European Union give evidence that the socio-economic problems is facing and will be facing are immense and on very different “battlegrounds.” The fight against child labor and the integration of women into the Turkish labor market for example pose serious challenges to be dealt with by the Turkish state (Turkey 2009 Progress Report: 65). The World Economic Forum ranked Turkey 105 among 115 countries in terms of equal opportunities of women on the labor market. Whereas on average 56% of women in the EU 27 were employed in 2005, Turkey counted not more than 23.7% (Grütjen 2008: 3). Recent studies have indicated that female employment in the informal sector has risen significantly as especially badly paid home-work and so-called piece-work performed by women plays an increasingly important part in securing sufficient family income. The low labor-force participation rate of women also poses a serious problem for the long-term financing of the social security system as many of them are passively insured over their husbands without paying any premiums. With the erosion of informal welfare provision, poverty in various forms, though not a new phenomenon, has come to be seen as one of the major challenges to the Turkish welfare state. As in many developing countries, the state did not provide formal protection against risk categories such as sickness or age, but rather provided formal employment opportunities in state owned enterprises or indirectly in state-protected private sector enterprises. Thus, the already mentioned form of “inegalitarian corporatism” developed, providing social protection to a small minority of the population formerly employed in the public or industrial sector. With the breaking away of state-provided employment, and a shift from agricultural to industrial employment (in Turkey as a late- industrializing country to a much lesser degree) and later in the service sector, the figures people employed in the informal labor market increased significantly. Today, the World Bank estimates that about half of the Turkish labor force works in the informal sector. This puts, in turn immense financial strains on the long-term financing of the slowly transforming social security system.



The deficits of the Turkish Social System:

These problematic developments due to a complicated mixture of trends which exceed the Turkish borders and the specific historic legacy of welfare conceptions in Turkey lead to a set of serious problems which the formal Turkish security system is exposed to, respectively which the Turkish social security system is not able to tackle. Four main deficits of the Turkish social system can be defined.

1. Insufficient coverage of the population:

This deficit refers to the quota of people who are covered as well as to the benefits payed. Only 41% of the Turks older than 65 receive payments out of pension insurance schemes. About 22% are entitled to a minimum pension (65 TL in 2005, while the Food Poverty line defined by the World Bank was 85 TL). 37% does not have any entitlement to pensions. Considering current demographic developments, Turkey might be facing serious problems. Whereas officially 84.5 % of the Turkish population is covered by health care insurances, the World Bank published figures around 67%. Only in the USA and in Mexico less people are covered by the public health care system. Thus, a great part of the Turkish population has to pay for medical care by themselves.

2. High indebtedness of social insurance agencies The main reason is to be found in the structure of the Turkish labor market. People employed in the informal labor market do not pay premiums yet most of them are insured passively with the head of the household.

3. Unequal distribution of social services This aspect underlines what Buğra & Keyder have termed as „inegalitarian corporatist regime.“ Different social insurance agencies each tending a specific clientele offer different services and thus solidify inequality within the population.

4. Non-existence of universal social rights connected to citizenship Social assistance schemes connected to citizenship do not yet exist. Only those services which are offered in the framework of social insurances are connected to legal entitlements. Every other services, for example offered by social institutions funded by the state, have a highly volatile character (Grütjen 2008: 4ff)



Turkey’s welfare regime in transition - social security reform:

Since the turn of the millennium, more and more efforts have been made by consecutive Turkish governments to reform the Turkish social security system and to tackle the problems discussed above. Even though some of the recent reforms will be discussed briefly, emphasis shall be put on the environment in which those changes have been discussed.

Turkey has been strongly influenced in its entire political course by different international actors. The International Monetary Fund as well as the World Bank had a strong hand in the neoliberal transformation process of Turkey’s economy giving out conditional loans that ensured Turkey’s economic opening and streamlining with the neoliberal agenda. Even though cuts in public spending on welfare could hardly be promoted considering the fact that Turkey has one of the lowest figures in state expenditure on social security, the recommendation concerning reforms in social security clearly promote economic development and the creation of a high level of competitiveness before dealing with concerns such as social equality or poverty. 8

Another actor, more encompassing than the IMF and the World Bank, is – as a matter of fact – the European Union. It has already been stated at the beginning that the European agenda concerning member states as well as accession countries is strongest, as clear and measurable, in its economic conditions enabling a country eventually to full membership. In the 2002 and 2003 reports, for example, it is stated that – in terms of social policies – “amendments to the current legislation are still needed in order to ensure the proper functioning of the social security system and to ensure its fiscal sustainability” (Commission Communication 1999). In the Council Decisions in 2001 and 2003, Turkey was required to “ensure the sustainability of the pension and social security system” as a part of economic criteria. 9 Elveren states that although the EU emphasizes the importance of enhancing social security by increasing state

8 Although Pierson has stressed that the World Bank seems to have changed its „philosophy“, repositioning itself on the issue of social policy and development and paying great attention to “attacking poverty”, mainly by promoting well-known third-way means, stressing non-state and community responses (Pierson


9 see “European Union Council Decision of 8 March 2001” 2001; “European Union Council Decision of 19 May 2003” 2003


support, the EU does not say anything different from the IMF or the WB who have pointed out the necessity of social security reform for Turkey as part of their major general policy, which is foremost to decrease public expenditures - or in the case of Turkey: making sure that there will be no drastic increases (Elveren 2008: 221 ff).

The most extensive reform packages have been passed in 2006 and 2008 under the liberal- conservative government of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and signify an attempt to fight against the increasing indebtedness of social insurance agencies on the one hand and move towards a more universal scheme of social security, away from what Buğra & Keyder have termed an “inegalitarian, corporatist regime.” In 2006, a General Health Insurance system was introduced, which aims at covering every citizen by providing basic health services. Furthermore, bureaucratic centralization and a new institutional structure should integrate thereto existing institutions under a single roof and gather dispersed social benefits provided by several institutions (Sosyal Güvenlik Kurumu). There were also, even though not entirely new, attempts to partially privatize social security. The 2006 EU report praised the new 2006 legislation on social protection, but sets it alongside the lived reality of life in Turkey: 1.29% of the population live below the hunger line, while 25.6% live below the poverty line. The percentage of the latter increased to 40% in the rural areas. According to the same study, the child poverty rate (below 6 years of age) is 34%, while this rate reaches almost 40% in rural areas. (EU, 2006: 54 in: Manning 2007: 492). It was harshly criticized that the reforms seemed to be strongly influenced by financial concerns (with the IMF as an influential political actor) as well as by the concerns of those already formally employed, while most issues of concern to those at risk of poverty and social exclusion were largly neglected. In an evaluation of the transformation process, the huge gap between average European and Turkish standards in welfare provision becomes clear once more. Buğra and Keyder (2006) as well as Grütjen (2008) praise the reforms in the course of which the state starts to contribute to social security provision, yet with 3-5% public allowances lay far under the figures of at least 20% in the European Union. A due to the discussed labor market structure and the increasing problem of poverty very crucial point on the agenda could not yet be implemented. A universal social assistence scheme on a rights-based approach, so characteristic for European countries, has not been approved yet. But an official draft prepared by the AKP foresees the introduction of social assistance, conditional on


participation in productive activity and thus as well in line with the neoliberal views on social justice and its vision of an active and productive citizen.

4. Where to converge to? A tentative conclusion.

“We do not want a social security reform imposed on us or ordered from us; we are seeking a stable and sustainable social security system in accordance with the European Social Model where the experiences of IMF and World Bank can be valuable assets in the reform process. However we will like to enact a reform that is appropriate for our domestic dynamics”

(Murat Baseskioglu, Minister of Labour & Social Security, 2005)

This paper showed that Turkey is facing social problems which derive from the historical legacy on the one hand and from processes of neoliberal transformation in the context of globalization on the other hand. The fact that social policies were never regarded as a crucial task of the government and the ensuing low degree of institutionalization leaves the incumbent government in a unique position. Whereas European convergence in terms of welfare policies is to a large extend hindered by deeply rooted institutions and the ensuing high political and economic costs of restructuring, Turkey is highly mobile and may thus have freer choices which path to embark upon.

In his analysis of late developing welfare states, Christopher Pierson states that they have always been strongly influenced both by the example of developed welfare states elsewhere and by the promptings of international agencies - besides the often mentioned IMF and WB, the International Labor Organization plays a strong part (Pierson 2004: 2). It is, even if Murat Baseskioglu’s quotation from 2005 might suggest otherwise, very difficult to say whether Turkey’s process of welfare-transformation has been influenced by a distinct idea of a European Social Model. Whereas the economically motivated interest and recommendations of international financial institutions as well as of the European Union are clearly


recognizable as a driving factor for reforms 10 , the European Social Model as a “soft factor” to a large part based on values, is much harder to retrace.

The changes in social policy in Turkey (as well as in other candidate countries) should be understood as an interaction between adaptive pressures coming from both the EU and international organizations and the capabilities and constraints of their interaction with domestic actors. Whereas a direct institutional impact, requiring the adaptation of a European social policy model or the compliance with EU conditions on social policy does not seem to play a big role I consider indirect pressure imposed by the EU on candidate countries, conceptualized as “cognitive Europeanization” of greater significance 11 . The mentioned non- binding recommendations, the open method of coordination or the deployment of incentives of “cognitive Europeanization” (such as participation in the European Social Fund, providing great amounts of money with the condition that it is applied in a specific framework).This process is also underlined by the entrance of “European” attitudes and perceptions about social issues and social problems and the best way to tackle them into the Turkish policy discourse.

10 As already mentioned, Elveren sees in his analysis no difference between the “European paradigm” and the “neoliberal paradigm”

11 Amongst others: Guillen & Pallier



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