'How "social" is Turkey? Turkey´s social security system in a European context´ is an international research project located at the Institute for World Society Studies at Bielefeld University in Germany and the Department of Political Science at Bilkent University in Ankara. The project started on 1 January 2017 and will continue until the end of 2019.
Social security systems are key institutions of Western post-war societies, absorbing 20-30% of GDP and shaping basic social structures like labour markets, socio-economic inequality, gender, and the relationship between state, markets and civil society. Social policy is about fundamental normative understandings of society, constituting a social contract and underpinning social cohesion. Moreover, social policy may affect a country's international economic competitiveness. At the level of the European Union, the notion of a 'social Europe' is seen by some as an essential element of Europeanization and the 'European model'. Standing between Europe and Asia, Turkey remains at the intersection of the developing world and advanced industrialized countries, and has not conventionally figured in comparative welfare state research.
The project brings together leading social policy researchers from Germany and Turkey in order to put Turkey on the map of comparative welfare state research, and to broaden the scope of Turkish studies in Germany. It uses state-of-the-art theories and quantitative as well as qualitative research methods to locate Turkey's experience in the field of social security in the broader world of welfare states. Furthermore, the project traces specific social policies and their political and ideational backgrounds in four key areas of social security, namely unemployment, social assistance, pensions and health. Academically, the case of Turkey will also enrich existing data and refine conceptual tools of comparative welfare state analysis, and add to the more recent global research on middle income countries.
Outside academia, the project aims to contribute to a better understanding of Turkey´s society, economy and politics in Germany. There is a dearth of knowledge on Turkey's social policy in German academia and public. Although the country declared itself a welfare state in the 1961 Constitution, and more than a third of all government expenditure is spent on social provisions, such as healthcare and pensions, popular imagination in Germany would not normally associate Turkey with welfare statism. Moreover, besides political and civil rights, the state of social rights in Turkey, too, is a crucial factor for the accession process of Turkey to the EU and for German-Turkish relationships. Can Turkey relate to the European family of welfare states and to 'social Europe'?
The project is part of the programme "Blickwechsel: Contemporary Turkey Studies", funded by Stiftung Mercator.