Contemporary Social Policy in Turkey: Workfare Programs in the Context of the Neo-liberal International Governance System

Osman Savaşkan
Bogazici University Atatürk Institute for Modern Turkish History
Graduation Date: 
Ayşe Buğra
Contemporary Social Policy in Turkey: Workfare Programs in the Context of the Neo-liberal International Governance System

This thesis focuses on the workfare programs which came onto the agenda of Turkey after 1999 Marmara earthquake and 2001 economic crisis as one of the strategies to struggle against poverty in parallel to the approaches of international organizations such as the World Bank. Workfare programs, by improving the employability of the poor and facilitating their access to the credit mechanisms, make the poor actors in market. In this way, market is presented as if it is an effective mechanism for poverty alleviation programs, and this causes market conditions creating poverty to remain unquestioned. Attempts to integrate the poor into the market also redefines social policy via poverty alleviation programs in a way in which social policy puts market at the center of the lives of the poor in a manner which reinforces the neo-liberal hegemony.

In the thesis, workfare programs in Turkey are discussed over the three interrelated basic points, by taking into consideration the international neo-liberal social policy environment. First while examining workfare programs; the reflection on Turkey of the transition from welfare to workfare state is taken into account. Secondly the nature of the cooperation between social policy actors in conducting workfare programs is examined. Within the context of international neo-liberal governance system, international organizations, state and voluntary organizations come together on the basis of cooperation; but this sort of cooperation, taking the social policy area out of the politics, causes the issue to be dealt with in a technical way like just carrying out the programs. Finally it is examined to what kind of labor markets employability training courses and self-employment programs, among workfare programs, strive to integrate the poor. The basic starting point here is to challenge the ignorance of ‘working poor’ category through which poverty and unemployment are taken as the same. Consequently workfare programs function to reinforce the hegemony of market in social policy area rather than becoming an effective way for poverty alleviation by ignoring the labor market conditions.