Straddling Two Continents: Social Policy and Welfare Politics in Turkey

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Aybars A. İ., Tsarouhas D.

SOCIAL POLICY & ADMINISTRATION, vol.44, no.6, pp.746-763, 2010 (SSCI) identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 44 Issue: 6
  • Publication Date: 2010
  • Doi Number: 10.1111/j.1467-9515.2010.00741.x
  • Journal Indexes: Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.746-763
  • Keywords: Turkey, Middle East, Social policy, Welfare models, MIDDLE-EAST
  • Middle East Technical University Affiliated: Yes


There has been an increasing academic interest in understanding the dynamics of social policy in the Middle East and developing a conceptual 'model' to account for the particular characteristics of welfare arrangements in the countries of the region. While part of this framework, Turkey represents an exceptional case due to the Europeanization processes the country is undergoing in various policy areas, including social policy. The influence of the European Union on the shape of Turkish social policy, as illustrated by the government's recent reforms in the labour market and social security domains, is hereby used to outline the position of Turkey vis-a-vis both the Southern European welfare regime and the Middle Eastern pattern. This article seeks to assess the dynamics of Turkish social policy in light of the country's political, and socio-economic dynamics, as well as the external influence exerted by the EU and international financial institutions. The aim is to examine Turkish welfare arrangements in a comparative manner and consider its suitability with reference to either of the two models. Looking at major trends in social security and the labour market, the article argues for a Turkish 'hybrid' model embodying the characteristics of both. Subject to EU explicit pressures for reform absent elsewhere in the Middle East, the data nevertheless show that Turkey has yet to make the qualitative leap forward that could place it firmly within the Southern European welfare group.