Declining Fertility Rates and Diverse Policy Responses: The Case of Turkey in EU Accession Process

Saturday, June 25, 2016: 2:30 PM-4:00 PM
402 Barrows (Barrows Hall)
Azer Kilic, Koc University, Istanbul, Turkey; Koc University, Istanbul, Turkey
Since the 1960s, European countries have experienced a significant decline in fertility rates. While it has not been as much a pressing issue for Turkey as it has been for European countries, several policy measures were also introduced in Turkey as a part of a legislative harmonization process for the country's candidacy for EU membership. However, the policy programme, now famous with the slogan of "minimum three children", was gradually developed by the ruling AKP party (Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi- Justice and Development Party) parallel to its broader agenda of cultural conservatism and economic growth. Accordingly, it has introduced a set of policy measures, which include not only European-supported incentives for the "reconciliation of work and family life", but also formal and informal restrictions on abortion access, among others, signalling a regressive turn in terms of women's rights. The literature tends to interpret European political interventions to influence fertility behaviour as a reconstructive response to the socially-destructive effects of an expanding market economy, as women in advanced industrial countries express a desire to have more children than they actually have (Streeck 2009, Esping-Andersen 2009). This talk, however, argues that the fertility policy in Turkey can be seen as a policy aimed to support the expansion of a market economy and likely to produce socially-destructive effects in terms of gender relations, as it pursues two major goals: to counteract the changing position of women in society via the reinforcement of traditional gender roles and to increase the country's competitiveness as an emerging market economy by means of a younger and larger population as well as flexible forms of employment. The talk provides an analysis of the development of the policy, taking into account interactions of EU accession process, the government's initiatives for agenda setting, public debates, and women's protests. 


Esping-Andersen, Gosta. Incomplete Revolution: Adapting Welfare States to Women's New Roles. Cambridge: Policy, 2009.

Streeck, Wolfgang. "Flexible Employment, Flexible Families, and the Socialization of Reproduction." Köln: Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, Working Paper, 2009.