Regional features in Turkey
Since the Helsinki summit, Turkey has become the 13th
candidate country for accession to the EU.
According to OECD data, GDP per head in terms of PPS is only 33.4%
of the EU average. Indeed, the difference in relation to the EU
seems to have persisted for many years at around this level, going
back at least to the beginning of the 1950s, higher GDP growth than
in the EU being offset by high population growth. Regional disparities
are associated with significant differences in geographical features
and climatic conditions, though they also have their roots in the
substantial migration flows which occurred during the troubled times
at the end of the 19th century and first half of the 20th.
The data available on GDP per head by province, of which there
are 80 and which have been aggregated into 19 regions of approximately
NUTS 2 size, illustrate the scale of disparities in 1997:
- between east and west: two-thirds of the population were concentrated
in the west of the country in half the land area, accounting for
82% of national GDP, and with GDP per head 23% above the national
average (41% of the EU average). In the east, GDP per head was
53% of the national average, much the same as 10 years earlier;
- between coastal and inland regions: GDP per head in the four
coastal regions as a whole accounting for 55% of the population
is 26% above the national average;
- in two regions (Istanbul and Izmit), GDP per head was substantially
above the national average (53% and 70% higher, respectively),
or around half the EU average;
- in 7 regions (Aegean Sea, the southern coastal areas, Ankara),
GDP per head was up to 50% above the national average, or between
a third and a half of the EU average;
- in 7 regions (around Anatolia, the Black Sea coastal areas),
the level was between half and 100% of the national average, between
20% and 33% of the EU average;
- in the remaining three regions, in eastern Anatolia, the level
was between 20% and 50% of the national average, or only 7% to
16% of the EU average, lower than in any other regions in the
In 1998, the official unemployment rate was estimated at 6.3% of
the labour force, but this does not reflect the true situation given
the absence of an unemployment benefit system and substantial under-employment.
Of the 20.5 million in civilian employment, 5.5 million were unpaid
family workers, mostly women. While the activity rate of men was
much the same as the EU average (79%), for women, it was considerably
lower (29% as against 59%), particularly in urban areas (15%). Data
on occupations suggest that women face considerable difficulties,
or even discrimination, in finding a job in manufacturing or services.
The rate of illiteracy is still significant (18% as against 3% in
Greece), even among young people in the work force and especially
among women (24%). Participation in compulsory schooling is below
90% of the age group concerned, largely due children working, 1
million of those between 6 and 14 being in work, a third of them
In contrast to the other candidate countries, Turkey introduced
a regional policy during the 1970s with an aid scheme for business.
The provinces assisted accounted for a third of the population and
had an average level of GDP per head of 56% of the national average.
The policy, however, has not produced significant results. Because
of security problems during the 1990s, financial aid did not attract
many firms to eastern regions. Moreover, problems of lagging development
were compounded by difficulties in the coal (Zonguldak) and the
iron and steel (KarabŁk) industries.
Data on public investment, which is still substantial because of
a large nationalised industry sector, indicate that support of disadvantaged
areas was small. In 1997, total spending on investment amounted
to around EUR 194 per head, of which some 40% went on regional measures.
The macroeconomic adjustment underway will have lasting effects
only if it is accompanied by a broad range of social reforms. Much
needs to be done in respect of employment legislation, equal opportunities,
social protection, health care, education and humans rights.
Social expenditures accounts for only 7% of GDP as compared with
25% in the European OECD countries, leaving a large part of the
population without adequate protection.
There is no general unemployment compensation system in Turkey.
Under employment regulations and collective agreements, dismissals
give entitlement to a fixed payment proportional to the time spent
in a job. However, 50% of employment is not declared and collective
agreements cover only 35% of those in officially declared jobs.
There is no provision in employment legislation against sex discrimination
and, according to the 1998 UNDP report on human development, discrimination
is institutionalised and a structural feature of the labour market.
The current health care system is costly and not particularly effective.
In 1998, the deficit on expenditure amounted to 2.7% of GDP and
accounted for a third of the total budget deficit. Access to health
care is unequal, with rural areas being especially disadvantaged,
expenditure on public health centres, mainly located in rural areas,
declining from 7% to 3% of the total health budget between 1992
Despite a relatively large number of children of school age, spending
on primary and secondary education amounts to only 2.1% of GDP,
against an OECD average of 3.4%. Expenditure per pupil in primary
schools is only just over 20% of the OECD average, while in secondary
schools it is only around 12%. For the poorest families, children
are a significant source of income and there is no Government policy
to encourage parents to send them to school.
In the context of preparing for accession, it is essential that
Turkey develops regional and social policies capable of responding
to needs and enabling it to participate in EU programmes for strengthening
economic and social cohesion.