Turkish mothers welcome help to combine work and family

Recent government regulations to push working women to have more children have been appreciated by mothers but may still fail to boost country's birth rate in the long term

Turkish mothers welcome help to combine work and family

World Bulletin/News Desk

“It is a kind of like winning a lottery for mothers who have just had babies or plan to have a child in the near future,” says Seda Emeksiz Sasmaz, 30, a mother of a two-year-old boy in Istanbul.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu announced last week new incentives for working women to have children, such as the ability to work part-time with full pay.

"We will provide mothers with the opportunity for part-time work after they use up the normal paid maternity leave of 16 weeks," Davutoglu said in Ankara last week as he launched the government initiative titled “Program on Protection of Family and Dynamic Population Structure.”

He said that working mothers will be able to work part time with full pay- immediately following the maternity leave - for two months if they have one child, four months with two children and six months with three or more children.

The prime minister also stressed that both parents would have the right to work part time (for half the pay) until their children reached the age to go to school, i.e. six years old.

Sasmaz, who was working as a writer for a TV channel before quitting her job, is now a housewife and takes care of her little boy. She believes the presence of a child’s mother is essential to his or her development.

“Children call babysitters ‘mother’ as they cannot properly see their own mother when they work full time,” she says. “It is a sad situation.”

Mehmet Isiker, a psychological counselor in the southern Osmaniye province agrees: “Children need the love and care of their mother until they reach six years old. Absence of the mothers (in this period) causes psychological problems for children.”

Still, Sasmaz neither supports working full time with a child nor having to quit a job to raise one.

“If I worked part time, I would have made my child and husband happier,” she stresses, adding that she does not feel satisfied by the fact that she does not work. “If a mother is happy, her child and her husband will be happy.”

Turkan Selamet, 47, a manager of a nursery in Bayrampasa district in Istanbul, also insists on the importance of part-time work for mothers' well-being.

“I see many mothers around me fall into depression as they cannot work because of their babies; or (they) feel guilty as they cannot take care of their children properly when they work full time,” he says.

However, these new regulations will “not encourage those who do not plan to have a baby," 30-year-old mother Sasmaz says. “You cannot make the decision to have a baby only because of the support of a regulation.”

Gul Ozdemir, 28, a public relations specialist at a beauty center in Istanbul holds similar views: “Of course, (the government's plan) sounds good but I cannot start thinking of having a baby with this initiative as I do not trust that the private sector will apply this part-time work (for new mothers)."

Davutoglu also announced that the government would allocate 300 Turkish lira for a first child, 400 Turkish lira for the second and 600 for the third.

“Of course, it is a symbolic amount, which will not encourage families to have a child,” adds Ozdemir.

While announcing the initiative, Davutoglu said that the aim was to increase the fertility rate from 2.1 percent to 3 percent in the long term.

There have been worries in Turkey about the aging population of Turkey in recent years.

Youth population rate is expected to decrease to 21.2 percent in 2023, and to 15.7 in 2050, from 24 percent in 2013, according to Development Minister Cevdet Yilmaz.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan regularly calls for families to have at least three children.

Academics do not think the government's moves with regards to mothers will contribute in population growth in the country.

“We don’t expect big changes in the population after this package,” says Alanur Cavlin, an associate professor of the Institute of Population Studies at Hacettepe University in Ankara. “There is no such a population change example in the world.”

Didem Danis, an associate professor of the Sociology Department of Galatasaray University in Istanbul, states that fertility policy is not enough on its own to foster a dynamic population. She suggests the government to develop its migrant policy.

“Germany does this. Many countries in Europe accept immigrants by specifying their needs, in a controlled manner. They prevent decreases in their population through this way. Immigrants coming to Turkey will also contribute in the dynamism of the population."

Güncelleme Tarihi: 15 Ocak 2015, 17:23