Social Inclusion Through Employment in Turkey – EU Relations: Disadvantaged Groups

Social Inclusion Through Employment in Turkey – EU Relations: Disadvantaged Groups

Today, the concept of “social inclusion”, which has an important place in the world through international organizations such as the United Nations, the World Bank and the European Union (EU), is among the priorities of state institutions through such organizations in Turkey. We spoke with İrem Akgün, a graduate of METU/Binghamton University Global Politics and International Relations, from WYG Turkey’s Socio-Economic Counseling Unit, and Oytun Dear, a Cambridge University Development Studies graduate, on social inclusion and the participation of disadvantaged groups in social and economic life through employment, the importance of which is increasing day by day in the world and in Turkey.

While the United Nations defines social inclusion as the elimination of the factors that prevent people from taking part in economic and social life and ensuring their integration with the society by bringing their life levels to an acceptable level in the society, the World Bank defines social inclusion as the process of improving the living conditions of individuals and groups to take part in society. However, the World Bank considers social inclusion a key factor in reducing extreme poverty and increasing shared prosperity. On the other hand, the EU also covers the most vulnerable groups in the society (the unemployed, the uneducated or those who cannot receive adequate education, the homeless, the disabled, drug addicts, women, children, the elderly, etc.) under the European Strategy for Combating Social Exclusion (Social Inclusion) and it targets to integrate these groups into the society with various actions. This strategy enables EU Member States and Candidate Countries such as Turkey to develop their own national policies within the framework of the EU’s economic, social and environmental objectives. In addition, it ensures that issues such as employment, income distribution and poverty, education, housing, health and transportation policies, social security system, social service and social assistance policies are shaped by taking these most vulnerable groups in the society into account. Along with these definitions, social inclusion is generally defined as the opposite effect of social exclusion caused by situations such as unemployment, poverty, substance abuse, discrimination, illness, old age, crime, etc. It is also seen as the steps that ensure the full participation of people and societies in order to positively change these situations that cause social exclusion.

In addition to the fact that employment, such as social inclusion, is an issue that is given importance by itself, especially by the EU, Employment is also seen as an important factor in promoting social inclusion. Increasing employment started to shape the country’s strategies as one of the four common goals in the field of poverty and social exclusion, which were adopted at the European Council meeting held in Nice, France in December 2000. With this goal, it is aimed to facilitate everyone’s access to resources, rights, goods and services through participation in employment. However, the issue of truly inclusiveness of labor markets is also prioritized. The European Commission’s Directorate General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion supports Member States with strategies and policies that include employment in the field of social inclusion and protection. In this context, within the scope of the smart, sustainable and inclusive growth priorities determined by the Europe 2020 Strategy, employment and social inclusion became the two main priorities among the 5 targets. The EU also aims to reduce poverty and social exclusion and increase employment. In order to support this goal, the “Agenda for New Skills and Jobs” and “European Platform Against Poverty” initiatives are envisaged. In addition, with the Social Investment Package presented by the Commission, policies are developed to improve the capacity and abilities of people to support their participation in employment. The target groups of this Social Investment Package were determined as youth, elderly, job seekers, women, disabled, homeless, job seekers and general society.

Social inclusion has an important place in the EU’s deepening policy as well as in enlargement policies. In this context, social inclusion is included in the 19th Chapter, Social Policy and Employment. According to the inferences to be made from this chapter, the inclusion of disadvantaged groups in the society through employment has become a priority issue for Turkey.

According to Turkey’s 2013 Progress Report, “administrative capacity to design, implement and evaluate policies to meet the needs of the most vulnerable groups is increasing, but still insufficient”[1] . The EU’s Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance supports significant achievements in many fields in Turkey, both to increase this insufficient capacity and to ensure the integration of disadvantaged groups, who are especially in need of attention, into society through employment. “Human Resources Development” is included as the 4th Component in this tool. Within the scope of this component, significant achievements are achieved in the field of “Social Inclusion”, which is the 4th priority, with many operations under the Presidency of the Progam Authority of the European Union Coordination Department of the TR Ministry of Labor and Social Security. The overall aim of this component is to support the transition to a knowledge-based economy capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better employment opportunities and greater social cohesion.

Many operations that come under the priority of social inclusion are one of the key factors in achieving significant success in social inclusion of disadvantaged groups in Turkey. In the light of the deep researches carried out within the scope of the Human Resources Development Operational Program (HRD OP), it is deemed appropriate to give priority to the following disadvantaged groups in Turkey: disabled, ex-offenders and convicts, internally displaced persons, the poor and groups at risk of poverty (those living in slums), Roma citizens, working children and their parents, children in need of care and other groups (substance abusers, women victims of violence, etc.). )[2] . Although not under the priority of social inclusion, the Operation for Supporting Women’s Employment and Supporting Youth Employment, which was carried out and completed by the Turkish Employment Agency (İŞKUR) with the technical support of WYG Turkey, achieved significant success in this field. A few of these can be summarized as increasing the employability of young people by increasing their entrepreneurial capacity, establishing and testing women-only business clubs, and preparing reports that analyze the problems of women’s employment. The “Employment and Social Support Services Coordination and Implementation Model Operation for the Integration of Disadvantaged Persons”, which is expected to be implemented soon, will also approach social inclusion from a local perspective and will ensure Turkey’s further development in social inclusion.

In Turkey, effective studies are carried out on social inclusion, apart from the HRD OP. One of the most important works within the scope of legal regulations is manifested in Article 30 of the Labor Law No. 4857. According to this article, in public workplaces employing fifty or more workers, it is obligatory to employ four percent disabled, two percent ex-convicts, and those who were injured in the fight against terrorism without being disabled. With the latest updates, the obligation to employ victims of terrorism and ex-convicts has been removed for private sector employers.

Apart from legal updates, many public and private organizations are working on social inclusion of disadvantaged groups through employment. The Ministry of Labor and Social Security, General Directorate of Disadvantaged Groups, develops policies to increase the employability of disadvantaged groups and continues to provide cooperation between all relevant public institutions, private institutions and social partners. İŞKUR provides employment-oriented trainings to many disadvantaged groups with its active labor market policies. Many support services provided by the Ministry of Family and Social Policies for the effective maintenance of social services provided to disadvantaged groups form an important basis before employment services.

In addition to public institutions, important steps are taken in the private sector to strengthen the participation of disadvantaged groups in social and economic life. For example, WYG Turkey took an important role in many projects aimed at social inclusion of disadvantaged groups in cooperation with beneficiary institutions and organizations, EU Delegation to Turkey and Central Finance and Contracts Unit and/or MoLSS EU Coordination Department. Within the scope of the “Support to Solve the Economic and Social Integration Problems of Istanbul, Izmir, Ankara and Bursa as Important Migration-Receiving Cities”, the institutional capacities of the metropolitan municipalities in the mentioned cities were increased, and support was provided for the rehabilitation and reintegration of children working / living on the streets in the target regions. Within the framework of the “Technical Assistance Project for Supporting the Solving of Social and Economic Integration Problems Caused by Migration in Diyarbakir, Şanlıurfa, Gaziantep, Erzurum Provinces”, a common solution was sought for the solution of integration problems arising from migration by increasing the capacities of local actors, and the way was paved for their social inclusion by facilitating the transition of women to the labor market.

As a result, although social inclusion through employment has become an increasingly important issue in Turkey with the support of the EU, it has become a process that has achieved great success with both public and private sector initiatives. As WYG Turkey, we aim to be an important actor in this process and to provide consultancy services to all institutions that aim to increase the welfare level in Turkey.   

[1]  Turkey Progress Report, 2013

[2]  Human Resources Development Operational Program, 3rd  Version, MoLLS

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