Working women of Turkey resist exploitation and discrimination

Turkey’s working women from different sectors and living spaces struggle for a humane future
Friday, 08 March 2019 14:39

Turkey’s women from different workplaces, professions, and neighborhoods show that they will not surrender but resist for a humane future.

The workers of Turkey have become obliged to line up for long queues to buy cheap vegetables and fruits as the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government has taken temporary measures to “reduce” the impact of increasing food prices by means of municipal sale points, while it provides the capitalists with fiscal incentives and tax exemptions to the detriment of the working people shoulder the burden of the crisis.

As President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government is trying to reshuffle the cards on the road to the upcoming local elections that will be held on March 31, it is also trying to continue its puss-in-the-corner game with unbalanced moves on the board of imperialism.

Turkey’s working women suffer from violence, the market-oriented government policies, and the ongoing unfair judicial procedures in addition to the high cost of living and exploitation. Thousands of women have been exposed to physical violence and murdered as the rate of femicide has increased in recent years.        

The ongoing law case of Şule Çet, the 23-year-old Turkish woman student-worker who was raped and killed at her boss’ office in Ankara in May 2018, has apparently revealed once again what parties are against each other: the capitalists versus the working people, working students, and working women.


Zehra Zümrüt Selçuk, The Minister of Family, Labour and Social Services, said in a meeting in February that last year the Turkish women have ranked first in Europe in extra participation in the labor force to "support" their husbands. As the government is trying to create such an illusion as if the people could set up a business with credits amounting 5000 Turkish liras ($920), a recently announced statistical report on women for 2018 shows that the rate of men’s employment is over twice as much that of women. The minister implies that the women can only “contribute” to her family budget, needless to say, that they cannot earn as much as to sustain themselves or her family.  

The Turkish Statistical Institute’s report on women indicates that the rate of employment of those over the age of 15 is 28.9 percent while the rate of their participation in the workforce is 33.6 percent. This means that only 3 out of 10 women can participate in Turkey’s economic life.

Moreover, almost half of these women are employed for informal and unsecured jobs. The statistics for work-related accidents and deaths for working women do not reflect the reality since they are forced to flexible working conditions, considering that such fields of employment are often out of supervision. Dozens of working women die from traffic accidents when they are carried to farms or factories on tractor and truck trailers or shuttle buses in Turkey where agriculture has been largely liquidated.

Although the numbers of men and women with high education under the age of 30 are almost equal, the young women face higher difficulties in finding jobs or maintaining their professional positions in comparison to their male counterparts with the same level of qualities. The rate of unemployment among men with high education is 8.7 percent, while this rate is as high as 18.4 percent among the women.

The employment of women in cheaper, temporary and unskilled jobs despite their high level of education is increasing more than that of the skilled positions. This is largely because the employment of women with low level of education as cheap workforce within the market is much more advantageous for the bosses.  

Yet another factor is that as the employment rate of skilled women with higher education is increasing, their need for housemaids is also rising proportionally. Some other women who are employed as nurses, cleaners, and day-workers assume the responsibilities of such skilled working women. On the other hand, long working hours, mobbing and decreasing wages become ordinary in such sectors as education, health, and finance where skilled women workforce is concentrated.


The working women of Turkey have strengthened their struggle in all the fields of life against discrimination and oppression for the last year.

The workers of Anı Tour, a tourism agency in İstanbul, resisted against the employer’s unlawful decision of dismissal of many of them. As they won the struggle and could take their compensation wages, even the trainee high school students in the same agency get organized for their rights.

As President Erdoğan boasted about “creating a society without any strikes”, the workers of a medicine factory (Gripin), mostly women, decided to go on a strike and won their struggle in ten days.  

After the women who have struggled for years against hydroelectric power plants, some others have participated in the struggle against the construction of geothermal energy plants in western Turkey. The women gathered against the gendarmerie forces and capitalists in a village of Aydın province.

The women struggled against an Islamist school principal who attempted to separate women and men students and teachers in the eastern Thrace province of Tekirdağ. As another principle in İstanbul’s Bahçeşehir district warned female students “not to wear tight trousers, the students launched an organized struggle, eventually, the principal was suspended from his duty for the investigation.

A professor dean at a university in Konya province had to resign from his post due to the women’s reaction after he declared that he would not vote for any women candidate at elections by saying, “Being a good housewife is more important than being a minister, a president, and a businesswoman.”

Above all, the workers of Flormar-Yves Rocher, mostly women, have conducted the most respectable resistance in recent years in Turkey. Having been dismissed while they were seeking for their rights to unionize, the cosmetics workers have been resisting for 298 days. The Flormar workers have demonstrated that the workers’ struggle can be stronger as they organized and that the capitalist class would be scared of their organized force.