Eurofound News May 2007

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Turkey at the crossroads

For countries applying for membership in the European Union, quality-of-life issues are the social complement to the political and economic criteria upon which they are evaluated. In its new report on Quality of life in Turkey, Eurofound has identified clear differences in quality-of-life indicators between Turkey and the EU Member States.

The report finds that the majority of Turks are satisfied with their life. Turkish citizens tend to be most satisfied with those life domains over which they have some control, such as personal health and family life. They are least satisfied with those domains for which the state is directly responsible, such as health services, education and standard of living. The most important determinants of overall life satisfaction in Turkey are, as in EU Member States, health, trust in other people, satisfaction with public policies and income.

A comprehensive picture of life in Turkey

The new report is based on the findings from the European Quality of Life Survey, and is supplemented by national data, academic surveys and related social-science studies. The research compares the social circumstances of people in Turkey with those of citizens in the ‘old’ EU15 Member States, the 10 new Member States admitted in 2004, and with Turkey’s neighbours Bulgaria and Romania.

Turkey’s still-rising population will surpass Germany’s (currently the highest in the EU) in just over a decade, and is projected to exceed 90 million by 2023 and 100 million by 2050. Its income per head is lower than any EU Member State and although its annual growth rate of GDP is much greater than the EU15 average, its GDP per capita is far below the average for the EU as a whole.

Increasing the supply of jobs

The biggest demographic challenge facing Turkish policymakers is to increase the supply of jobs. Almost 50% of Turks report that they have had trouble during the previous year in paying for at least one household necessity. More worryingly, the report points out, is that gender differences in employment are great: more than five times as many men as women are in paid employment. The majority of women are unpaid homemakers and are much less likely to be entitled to any social security benefits.

Turkey’s potential claim to EU cohesion funds

Combining Turkey’s low average national income and its large population could make its potential claim on EU social cohesion funds far greater than other countries. In the present EU of 27 Member States, the new entrants with strong claims on EU funds already constitute more than one fifth of the Union’s total population. The addition of Turkey could raise the proportion of the population claiming EU funds to 50%.

The report concludes that the opening up of discussions about EU accession creates opportunities, incentives and requirements for Turkey to converge with EU standards. The EU is not negotiating on the substance or conditions of accession but rather is asking Turkey, as a candidate country, to adjust to the EU’s laws and policies. This requires ongoing discussions, since many requirements are not fixed and precise, and because the form, methods and pace of adjustment are negotiable.

Download the report

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