COVID Crisis in Turkey Is a Different StoryMIDDLE INCOME LEVELS HAVE BEEN HIT MORE THAN IN THE REST OF MEDITERRANEAN EUROPE, FOOD INSECURITY IS STRONGER, AND THE DISTRIBUTION OF HOUSEHOLD CHORES CHANGED, ACCORDING TO A SURVEY BY SELIN KOKSAL AND COLLEAGUES
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in Turkey were somewhat different from other European countries, according to “The Labor Market, Income Losses and Household Production during COVID-19 Pandemic in Turkey.” This survey was carried out by Selin Köksal, a PhD student at Bocconi’s Department of Social and Political Sciences, in collaboration with Gökçe Uysal from Bahçeşehir University and Aysun Hızıroğlu Aygün at Istanbul Technical University. It interviewed 3,000 people in Turkey in September and October on three different topics: labor market conditions, income losses of households, and division of labor between genders.
Like everywhere else, household income levels in Turkey fell sharply because of the pandemic, where 15% of the people surveyed said they lost their job or closed their business either temporarily or permanently. But the contraction was the greatest at both low- and middle-income levels, whereas in more developed economies it was the lower-income workers who suffered most, the survey found.
The biggest surprise discovering how widespread food insecurity was during the pandemic. “What was striking in terms of income was, almost 40% of respondents said that they had difficulties in compensating for the decline in their food expenditures,” said Köksal. “As a policy implication we can say the issue of food security as the pandemic continues could become more pronounced. So this issue needs to be tracked.”
Another way that the pandemic’s impact differed in Turkey from other Mediterranean countries such as Italy and Spain was how men and women shared household chores. Men with higher socioeconomic status were more likely to participate in domestic activities during the pandemic, with the division of labor becoming more egalitarian. This contrasts with a UN study showing women in general shouldered more of the household chores in many countries.
“Even though the division of household labor is becoming slightly more egalitarian, the tasks are still very much in line with traditional gender norms,” observed Köksal. “So it is hard to say that since men are participating more it will lead to more long-term higher levels of gender equality in couples. Maybe this is more of a short-term effect.” Men’s increased participation did not lead to a decrease in women’s household responsibilities, because the overall amount of household work rose.
“Gender and family issues are not put at top of the list,” she said. “But the pandemic really showed how vulnerable some families are. I hope this study could focus the government’s attention on these gender issues.”
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by Jennifer Clark