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Turkey has made considerable progress in improving the quality of life of its citizens over the last two decades. Notwithstanding, Turkey performs well in only a few measures of well-being and ranks low in a large number of topics relative to most other countries in the Better Life Index.
Money, while it cannot buy happiness, is an important means to achieving higher living standards. In Turkey, the average household net-adjusted disposable income per capita is lower than the OECD average of 23 938 USD a year.
In terms of employment, 49% of people aged 15 to 64 in Turkey have a paid job, less than the OECD employment average of 65%. Some 69% of men are in paid work, compared with 29% of women. People in Turkey work 1 855 hours a year, more than the OECD average of 1 765 hours. Around 43% of employees work very long hours, much higher than the OECD average of 9%, with 47% of men working very long hours compared with 33% for women.
Having a good education is an important requisite for finding a job. In Turkey, 32% of adults aged 25-64 have earned the equivalent of a high-school degree, much lower than the OECD average of 75% and the lowest rate amongst OECD countries. This is truer of men than women, as 36% of men have successfully completed high-school compared with 27% of women. This difference is larger than the OECD average and suggests women’s participation in higher education could be strengthened. In terms of the quality of the educational system, the average student scored 462 in reading literacy, maths and science in the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), lower than the OECD average of 497. On average in Turkey, girls outperformed boys by 16 points, more than the average OECD gap of 8 points.
In terms of health, life expectancy at birth in Turkey is 75 years, five years lower than the OECD average of 80 years. Life expectancy for women is 77 years, compared with 72 for men. The level of atmospheric PM10 – tiny air pollutant particles small enough to enter and cause damage to the lungs – is 35.1 micrograms per cubic meter, considerably higher than the OECD average of 20.1 micrograms per cubic meter. Turkey also performs below the OECD average in terms of water quality, as 60% of people say they are satisfied with the quality of their water, below the OECD average of 84%.
Concerning the public sphere, there is a moderate sense of community and high levels of civic participation in Turkey, where 79% of people believe that they know someone they could rely on in time of need, less than the OECD average of 89%. Voter turnout, a measure of public trust in government and of citizens’ participation in the political process, was 88% during recent elections; this figure is higher than the OECD average of 72%. Voter turnout for the top 20% of the population is an estimated 89% and for the bottom 20% it is an estimated 84%, a much narrower gap than the OECD average gap of 11 percentage points, suggesting there is broad social inclusion in Turkey’s democratic institutions.
In general, Turks are less satisfied with their lives than the OECD average, with 61% of people saying they have more positive experiences in an average day (feelings of rest, pride in accomplishment, enjoyment, etc.) than negative ones (pain, worry, sadness, boredom, etc.). This figure is much lower than the OECD average of 76%.
OECD in Action
OECD Economic Surveys: Turkey 2014
ECD's 2014 Economic Survey of Turkey examines recent economic developments, policies and prospects. The special chapter looks at structural change in the business sector.Read this report
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Turkey in Detail
Housing – Turkey expand
Living in satisfactory housing conditions is one of the most important aspects of people’s lives. Housing is essential to meet basic needs, such as shelter, but it is not just a question of four walls and a roof. Housing should offer a place to sleep and rest where people feel safe and have privacy and personal space; somewhere they can raise a family. All of these elements help make a house a home. And of course there is the question whether people can afford adequate housing.
Housing costs take up a large share of the household budget and represent the largest single expenditure for many individuals and families, by the time you add up elements such as rent, gas, electricity, water, furniture or repairs. In addition to housing costs it is also important to examine living conditions, such as the average number of rooms shared per person and whether households have access to basic facilities. In Turkey, 67% of people say they are satisfied with their current housing situation, much less than the OECD average of 87% and the lowest level amongst OECD countries. This low level of subjective satisfaction reflects Turkey’s mixed performance in objective housing indicators.
The number of rooms in a dwelling, divided by the number of persons living there, indicates whether residents are living in crowded conditions. Overcrowded housing may have a negative impact on physical and mental health, relations with others and children’s development. In addition, dense living conditions are often a sign of inadequate water and sewage supply. In Turkey, the average home contains 1.1 rooms per person, less than the OECD average of 1.6 rooms per person and one of the lowest rates across the OECD. In terms of basic facilities, 87.3% of people in Turkey live in dwellings with private access to an indoor flushing toilet, less than the OECD average of 97.9% and the lowest rate across OECD countries.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance
Income – Turkey expand
While money may not buy happiness, it is an important means to achieving higher living standards and thus greater well-being. Higher economic wealth may also improve access to quality education, health care and housing.
Household net-adjusted disposable income is the amount of money that a household earns each year after taxes and transfers. It represents the money available to a household for spending on goods or services. In Turkey, the average household net-adjusted disposable income per capita is considerably lower than the OECD average of 23 938 USD.
Household financial wealth is the total value of a household’s financial worth. In Turkey, the average household net financial wealth per capita is considerably lower than the OECD average of 42 903 USD. While the ideal measure of household wealth should include non-financial assets (e.g. land and dwellings), such information is currently available for only a small number of OECD countries.
Better Policies for Better Lives
Cash transfers to reduce poverty
In 2001, Turkey introduced the Turkish Social Solidarity Fund to help children from low-income families. It targets the poorest 6% of children and has around 2.6 million beneficiaries. Low-income families are identified through proxy means-testing. The programme also seeks to address gender bias in education by paying more to girls both at primary and secondary school levels.
Evaluations show a favourable impact on poverty reduction and a measurable positive effect on school enrolment and attendance.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance
Jobs – Turkey expand
Having a job brings many important benefits, including: providing a source of income, improving social inclusion, fulfilling one’s own aspirations, building self-esteem and developing skills and competencies. In Turkey, about 49% of the working-age population aged 15 to 64 has a paid job. This figure is much lower than the OECD employment average of 65%, and the lowest rate in the OECD. Employment rates are generally higher for individuals with a higher level of education; in Turkey an estimated 73% of individuals with at least a tertiary education have a paid job, compared with an estimated 46% for those without an upper secondary education. This 27 percentage point difference is slightly lower than the OECD average of 33 percentage points and suggests the job market in Turkey is relatively inclusive.
Women are still less likely than men to participate in the labour market. In Turkey, 29% of women have jobs. This is much less than the OECD average of 57% and the 69% employment rate of men in Turkey. This 40 percentage point gender difference is much higher than the OECD average of 16 percentage points and the highest amongst OECD countries. This suggests employment opportunities for women could be improved.
Young Turkish people aged 15-24 also face difficulties, with an unemployment rate of 17.5%, higher than the OECD average of 16.3%.
Unemployed persons are defined as those who are not currently working but are willing to do so and actively searching for work. Long-term unemployment can have a large negative effect on feelings of well-being and self-worth and result in a loss of skills, further reducing employability. In Turkey, the percentage of the labour force that has been unemployed for a year or longer is currently at 2.3%, lower than the OECD average of 2.7%. There is little difference on average between men and women in the OECD area when it comes to long-term unemployment. In Turkey, however, the difference is relatively high with an unemployment rate of 1.8% for men and 3.4% for women.
The wages and other monetary benefits that come with employment are an important aspect of job quality. In Turkey, people earn 17 460 US dollars per year on average, much less than the OECD average of 41 010 USD. Not everyone earns that amount however. Whereas the top 20% of the population earn an estimated 23 035 USD per year, the bottom 20% live on an estimated 7 334 USD per year.
Another essential factor of employment quality is job security. Workers facing a high risk of job loss are more vulnerable, especially in countries with smaller social safety nets. In Turkey, workers face a 7.8% chance of losing their job, much higher than the OECD average of 5.3%.
More ResourcesWell‑being in the workplace: Measuring job quality
Community – Turkey expand
Humans are social creatures. The frequency of our contact with others and the quality of our personal relationships are thus crucial determinants of our well-being. Helping others can also make you happier. Around 38% of people reported having helped a stranger in the last month, much less than the OECD average of 49%.
A strong social network, or community, can provide emotional support during both good and bad times as well as provide access to jobs, services and other material opportunities. In Turkey, 79% of people believe that they know someone they could rely on in a time of need, one of the lowest rates in the OECD, where the average is 89%. There is a 2 percentage point difference between men and women, as 78% of men believe they have this kind of social support, compared with 80% of women. While gender has little impact on social network support, there is a clear relationship between the availability of social support on the one hand, and people’s education level on the other. In Turkey, only 76% of people who have completed primary education report having someone to count on for help in times of need, compared to over 91% for people who attained tertiary education.
A weak social network can result in limited economic opportunities, a lack of contact with others, and eventually, feelings of isolation. Socially isolated individuals face difficulties integrating into society as a contributing member and fulfilling personal aspirations.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance OECD Insights: Human Capital
Education – Turkey expand
A well-educated and well-trained population is essential for a country’s social and economic well-being. Education plays a key role in providing individuals with the knowledge, skills and competences needed to participate effectively in society and in the economy. Having a good education greatly improves the likelihood of finding a job and earning enough money. Across OECD countries, 83% of people with university-level degrees have a job, compared with 55% for those with only a secondary school diploma. Lifetime earnings also increase with each level of education.
Following a decline in manual labour over previous decades, employers now favour a more educated labour force. High-school graduation rates therefore provide a good indication of whether a country is preparing its students to meet the minimum requirements of the job market. In Turkey, 32% of adults aged 25-64 have earned the equivalent of a high-school degree, much lower than the OECD average of 75% and the lowest rate across OECD countries. This is truer of men than women, as 36% of men have successfully completed high-school compared with 27% of women. This 9 percentage point difference is much higher than the OECD average of 1 percentage point and suggests women’s participation in secondary education could be strengthened. Among younger people – a better indicator of Turkey’s future – 43% of 25-34 year-olds have earned the equivalent of a high-school degree, also lower than the OECD average of 82% but showing progress.
Turkish people can expect to go through 16.0 years of education between the ages of 5 and 39, less than the OECD average of 17.7 years and one of the lowest in the OECD.
But graduation rates, while important, speak little to the quality of education received. The OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) reviews the extent to which students have acquired some of the knowledge and skills that are essential for full participation in modern societies. In 2012, PISA focused on examining students’ reading ability, skills in maths and level in sciences, as research shows that these skills are more reliable predictors of economic and social well-being than the number of years spent in school.
The average student in Turkey scored 462 in reading literacy, maths and sciences, lower than the OECD average of 497. On average, girls outperformed boys by 16 points, more than the average OECD gap of 8 points.
The best-performing school systems manage to provide high-quality education to all students. In Turkey, the average difference in results, between the students with the highest socio-economic background and the students with the lowest socio-economic background is 88 points, less than the OECD average of 96 points. This suggests the school system in Turkey provides relatively equal access to good-quality education.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance
Environment – Turkey expand
The quality of our local living environment has a direct impact on our health. Having access to green spaces for example, is essential for quality of life. An unspoiled environment is a source of satisfaction, improves mental well-being, allows people to recover from the stress of everyday life and to perform physical activity. According to the latest available figures, in Turkey, 33% of people feel they lack access to green spaces, much more than the 12% average of OECD European countries, and the highest level of dissatisfaction.
Outdoor air pollution is one important environmental issue that directly affects the quality of peoples’ lives. Despite national and international interventions and decreases in major pollutant emissions, the health impacts of urban air pollution continue to worsen, with air pollution set to become the top environmental cause of premature mortality globally by 2050. Air pollution in urban centres, often caused by transport and the use of small-scale burning of wood or coal, is linked to a range of health problems, from minor eye irritation to upper respiratory symptoms in the short-term and chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma, cardiovascular diseases and lung cancer in the long-term. Children and the elderly may be particularly vulnerable.
PM10 – tiny particulate matter small enough to be inhaled into the deepest part of the lung – is monitored in OECD countries because it can harm human health and reduce life expectancy. In Turkey, PM10 levels are 35.1 micrograms per cubic meter, much higher than the OECD average of 20.1 micrograms per cubic meter as well as the annual guideline limit of 20 micrograms per cubic meter set by the World Health Organization and one of the highest levels in the OECD.
Access to clean water is fundamental to human well-being. Despite significant progress in OECD countries in reducing water pollution, improvements in freshwater quality are not always easy to discern. In Turkey, only 60% of people say they are satisfied with water quality. This figure is the lowest in the OECD, where the average satisfaction level is 84%.
Better Policies for Better Lives
Undersea rail tunnel to combat air pollution in Istanbul
Istanbul’s growing traffic jams are not just a city transport headache, they also result in high levels of air pollution from vehicle exhausts. To reduce local air pollution, traffic congestion and energy consumption, the Istanbul municipality has launched a number of urban public transport projects. For example, the 8 km subway line which opened in 2000 is being extended, as are the light rail (Hafif-Metro) and tramway systems.
Istanbul is also implementing one of the worlds’ major transport infrastructure projects that aims to upgrade 63 km of the commuter rail system and build a 13 km rail crossing under the Istanbul Strait (Bosphorus). In addition to reducing congestion, the Marmaray project is expected to improve air quality by reducing vehicle traffic on the two existing bridges that span the Bosphorus. However, to reap maximum environmental benefit from the Marmaray project, complementary actions should be undertaken such as active traffic management on bridge crossings and tight controls on parking.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance OECD Environmental Outlook to 2030
Governance – Turkey expand
Trust in government is essential for social cohesion and well-being. In Turkey, 54% of people say they trust their national government, more than the OECD average of 39%. High voter turnout is another measure of public trust in government and of citizens’ participation in the political process. In the most recent elections for which data is available, voter turnout in Turkey was 88% of those registered. This figure is much higher than the OECD average of 72%.
Even if the right to vote is universal in all OECD countries, not everyone exercises this right. There is little difference in the voting rates of men and women in most OECD countries. This is the case in Turkey, where the voter turnout of men and women is similar at an estimated 87% and 88%. While on average there are few differences between men and women concerning participation in elections, income can have a strong influence on voter turnout. In Turkey, voter turnout for the top 20% of the population is an estimated 89%, whereas the participation rate of the bottom 20% is an estimated 84%. This 5 percentage point difference is smaller than the OECD average difference of 11 percentage points and suggests there is broad social inclusion in Turkey’s democratic institutions.
Ensuring that government decision making is not compromised by conflicts of interest is key to maintaining trust in government. Transparency is therefore essential to hold government to account and to maintain confidence in public institutions.
Freedom of information laws (FOI) allow the possibility for individuals to access undisclosed information. For such policies to be successful, the public should have a clear understanding of their rights under the law, should be able to file requests with ease and should be protected against any possible retaliation. People in Turkey can file a request for information either in writing, online, or in person – thus greatly facilitating the FOI process. However, there are no provisions for anonymity or protection from retaliation.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance
Health – Turkey expand
Most OECD countries have enjoyed large gains in life expectancy over the past decades, thanks to improvements in living conditions, public health interventions and progress in medical care. Among OECD countries, Turkey registered one of the greatest gains in life expectancy between 1960 and 2008, with an overall increase in longevity of 25 years, rapidly narrowing the gap with the average across OECD countries. Life expectancy at birth in Turkey stands at almost 75 years, five years below the OECD average of 80 years and one of the lowest across the OECD. Life expectancy for women is 77 years, compared with 72 for men, a slightly smaller gender difference than the average OECD gap of six years, with a life expectancy of 83 years for women and 77 for men.
Higher life expectancy is generally associated with higher healthcare spending per person, although many other factors have an impact on life expectancy (such as living standards, lifestyles, education and environmental factors). Total health spending accounted for 6.1% of Turkish GDP in 2008, more than three points below the average of 9.4% in OECD countries and the second lowest share among OECD countries after Estonia (5.9%). At 906 USD in 2008, Turkey’s level of health spending per person is the lowest in the OECD, where the average is of 3 322 USD. Between 2000 and 2010, total health spending in Turkey increased in real terms by 7.1% per year on average, a higher rate than the OECD average of 4.0%.
Throughout the OECD, tobacco consumption and excessive weight gain remain two important risk factors for many chronic diseases. Turkey has achieved some progress in reducing tobacco consumption, with the proportion of daily smokers among adults decreasing from 43.6% in 1989 to 23.8%. Still, smoking rates among adults in Turkey remain higher than the OECD average of 20.9%. In many OECD countries, large proportions of the population are overweight or obese. In Turkey, the obesity rate among adults – based on self-reported height and weight – is 16.9%, below the OECD average of 17.2%. Obesity’s growing prevalence foreshadows increases in the occurrence of health problems (such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and asthma), and higher health care costs in the future.
When asked, “How is your health in general?”67% of people in Turkey reported to be in good health, slightly lower than the OECD average of 69%. Despite the subjective nature of this question, answers have been found to be a good predictor of people’s future health care use. Gender, age and social status may affect answers to this question. On average in OECD countries, men are more likely to report good health than women, with an average of 72% for men and 67% for women. In Turkey, the average is 72% for men and 62% for women. Not surprisingly, older people report poorer health, as do those who are unemployed, or who have less education or income. About 75% of adults with a disposable income in the top 20% in Turkey rated their health as ‘good’ or ‘very good’, compared to about 61% for those with a disposable income in the bottom 20%.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance
Life Satisfaction – Turkey expand
Happiness or subjective well-being can be measured in terms of life satisfaction, the presence of positive experiences and feelings, and the absence of negative experiences and feelings. Such measures, while subjective, are a useful complement to objective data to compare the quality of life across countries.
Life satisfaction measures how people evaluate their life as a whole rather than their current feelings. It captures a reflective assessment of which life circumstances and conditions are important for subjective well-being. When asked to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, Turkish people gave it a 4.9 grade, one of the lowest scores in the OECD, where average life satisfaction is of 6.6.
There is little difference in life satisfaction levels between men and women across OECD countries. In Turkey, however, women reported being somewhat happier than men, rating their lives at 5.1, compared with 4.7 for men. Education levels also influence subjective well-being. Whereas Turkish people who have only completed primary education have a life satisfaction level of 4.4, this score reaches 5.8 for those with tertiary education.
Happiness, or subjective well-being, is also measured by the presence of positive experiences and feelings, and/or the absence of negative experiences and feelings. In Turkey 61% of people reported having more positive experiences in an average day (feelings of rest, pride in accomplishment, enjoyment, etc.) than negative ones (pain, worry, sadness, boredom, etc.). This figure is lower than the OECD average of 76% and one of the lowest in the OECD.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance
Safety – Turkey expand
Personal security is a core element for the well-being of individuals, and largely reflects the risks of people being physically assaulted or falling victim to other types of crime. Across the OECD, assault rates have generally declined in the past five years. In Turkey, 5.0% of people reported falling victim to assault over the previous 12 months, more than the OECD average of 3.9%. There is a difference of almost 3 percentage points between men and women, at respectively 6.4% and 3.7%.
The homicide rate (the number of murders per 100,000 inhabitants) is a more reliable measure of a country’s safety level because, unlike other crimes, murders are usually always reported to the police. According to the latest OECD data, Turkey’s homicide rate is 3.3, compared with an OECD average of 4.1. In Turkey, men are far more likely to be murdered than women, as the homicide rate for men is 8.6 compared with 2.0 for women.
Fear of crime is another important indicator as it can constrain behaviour, restrict freedom and threaten the foundation of communities. Despite a general reduction in assault rates in the past five years, in many OECD countries feelings of security have declined. In Turkey, 62% of people feel safe walking alone at night, lower than the OECD average of 69%. While men are at a greater risk of being victims of assaults and violent crimes, women report lower feelings of security than men. This has been explained by a greater fear of sexual attacks, the feeling they must also protect their children and their concern that they may be seen as partially responsible.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance
Work-Life Balance – Turkey expand
Finding a suitable balance between work and life is a challenge for all workers, especially working parents. Some couples would like to have (more) children, but do not see how they could afford to stop working. Other parents are happy with the number of children in their family, but would like to work more. This is a challenge to governments because if parents cannot achieve their desired work/life balance, not only is their welfare lowered but so is development in the country.
People spend one-tenth to one-fifth of their time on unpaid work. The distribution of tasks within the family is still influenced by gender roles: men are more likely to spend more hours in paid work, while women spend longer on unpaid domestic work. Men in Turkey, spend 116 minutes per day cooking, cleaning or caring, less than the OECD average of 141 minutes and less than a third of the time spent by Turkish women on domestic work, 377 minutes per day on average. This is one of the highest differences in the OECD.
Another important aspect of work-life balance is the amount of time a person spends at work. Evidence suggests that long work hours may impair personal health, jeopardize safety and increase stress. People in Turkey work 1 855 hours a year, more than the OECD average of 1 765 hours. The share of employees working more than 50 hours per week is not very large across OECD countries. In Turkey, however, 43% of employees work very long hours, by far the highest rate in the OECD where the average is 9%. Overall, men spend more hours in paid work: in Turkey 47% of men work very long hours, compared with 33% of women.