Gender Dimensions of Being NEET in Turkey

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Chapter Summary

Gender is an important determinant of being NEET in Turkey, as three-quarters of NEET youth in Turkey are women. Another important determinant of NEET status is the location in Turkey: the likelihood of becoming NEET among the youth is highest in south-eastern Turkey. Educational attainment is another important correlate of NEET status, while household wealth is less strongly correlated with being NEET. NEET men and women have some common profiles, but they are inherently different in terms of age and demographics. For both young men and women, several individual characteristics like low education or having bad health increase the likelihood of being NEET, though education makes a greater difference for women than it does for men in terms of being NEET. While young NEET men almost entirely (93%) live with their parents, only one-third of NEET women live with their parents and NEET women in Turkey are more likely to be married (66%).


Many different definitions are used globally to define NEET youth. EUROSTAT and OECD define youth as those aged between 15 to 29 whereas the World Bank defines youth covering the age of 15-24. Studies focusing on youth in Turkey also have a variety of age categories to cover youth. For instance, Susanlı (2016) examining the determinants of being NEET in Turkey using a pooled sample from Household Labour Surveys from 2004 to 2013 cover the age group of 15-24 as being youth. On the other hand, Erdogan et al. (2017) underlining the importance of gender and educational attainment as important determinants of being NEET in Turkey covers the age group of 18-29-year olds as youth in their studies.  This report covers the age group of 18-29 to define NEET and presents its analyses accordingly. The age group of 18 was selected as it is the legal age to define youth in Turkey, and this analysis focuses on youth within the scope of the EU-funded project “Enhancing Advocacy Capacities of Youth CSOs in Turkey: Guiding CSOs through Research”. For this reason, the age group 15-17 was excluded from the analysis as it is denoted as a childhood period. The upper bound of the age group is 29 to ensure broad coverage of youth in parallel with studies being carried out in Turkey and also with data sets in Europe. For further discussion on NEET defiitions, please see Annex I.

While having some commonalities, NEET women and NEET men in Turkey have very different profiles. In this section, we provide a gender-disaggregated analysis of determinants of NEET status.

First of all, gender differences are striking in terms of NEET status of young girls and boys across regions. NEET rate for young men is as low as 10.5 percent in the region composed of Tekirdag, Edirne, Kırklareli. NEET rate for men is highest in Sanliurfa and Diyarbakir with 35.5 percent. In contrast, NEET rate for young women is higher than 50 percent in half of the NUTS II level regions, and it ranges between 39.9 percent and 76.5 percent with the highest rate observed in the region composed of Sanliurfa and Diyarbakır again. NEET rates of women are as high as five times of NEET rates of men in the region composed of Agri, Kars and Iğdır. NEET rates for young men are below 20 percent in 15 regions out of 26 (see Figure 8)

Young women in Turkey are much more likely to become NEET in Turkey as opposed to young men. Around half of the young women aged 18-29 years old (51.2 percent) are in NEET status as opposed to 17.6 percent of young men (see Figure 9). In fact, being a woman turns out to be the single most important contributor to being NEET in Turkey controlling for other individual or household characteristics like education, marital status, household wealth and having children, increasing the likelihood of being NEET by 32.9 percentage points (see Annex Table 8 for regression results).

For young men and women, a number of individual characteristics like low education or having bad health commonly increase the likelihood of being NEET. Men aged 18-24, single men, those with less than basic education or university education or more, men having bad (or mediocre) health, or a physical constraint, men living in households in the first two quintiles (poorest) and men without children are the groups with above-average levels of NEET (See Figure 9). For women, similarly bad health, low level of wealth and having a low level of education increase the likelihood of being NEET.

Yet education makes a greater difference for women than it does for men with respect to being NEET. For instance, 81.5 percent of young women with less than basic education are NEET while this rate drops down to 59, 40.9 and 36.7 percent respectively for having basic education, high school education and university education or more (See Figure 9). For men, this rate is smaller and ranges between 38.2 and 17.9 percent. Education and NEET status are in fact endogenous. Women who receive higher levels of education are also those who are more likely to work due to other individual or household characteristics. Hence those who have a higher level of education are less likely to be NEET not only due to education but also these other characteristics that led them to get an education in the first place.

Controlling for other individual and household characteristics, having higher levels of education compared to having less than basic education is negatively and significantly associated with being NEET for women (see regression results in Annex Table 8). In comparison, for men having basic education or a high school degree is significantly negatively associated with being NEET while a university degree does not seem to make a significant difference. Overall for men, taking other characteristics constant, being older, being married, being healthy, being richer (in terms of asset ownership) decreases the likelihood of being NEET. For women, being older, being single, being healthy and not having children of their own and being richer decreases the likelihood of being NEET.

While young women are always more likely to be NEET than young men independent of their individual characteristics, in some cases, the gap is
The differences between NEET rate of men and women reach their highest level when they are married or when their youngest child is aged 0-2 years old (See Figure 9). Young married women are 10 times more likely to become NEET compared to young married men while young women with a child aged 0-2 are also 10 times more likely to become NEET compared to young men with a small child. On the other hand, the difference is the smallest when men and women are both single, when they have a university education or higher and when they have health problems (in which case they both are more likely to be NEET).

The share of NEET among young women increases with age while it decreases among men. Figure 10 shows that between the ages of 18 and 21 NEET rates are mostly stable for young men and women. However, starting from 22 years old the gap starts to get wider and wider. While the likelihood of men being NEET decreases the older they get, it increases for women. Additionally, at every age young women are less likely to be NEET when they have high school education or more as opposed to when they have a lower level of education. For young men, the effect of education is rarely as high, and the gap mostly disappears after age 23. Yet when marital status and having children are controlled for, the likelihood of being NEET decreases for women with age (See regression results in Annex Table 8).

Men and women’s NEET levels change depending on the life stage they are at rather than their age. Age is correlated with the life stages of men and women. Following these life stages from being single to getting married and having children, one can more clearly see the widening gap (see Figure 11). Single young men and women have similar NEET levels with 33.7 percent and 20.7 percent respectively. However, when they get married NEET level increases by 22.4 percentage points among women and another 19.6 percentage points when they have children reaching 75.7 percent. In contrast, the share of NEET among young men decreases when they are in these life stages. In fact, being married among young NEET men is quite uncommon (9.5 percent) while more than half of NEET women (65.8 percent) are married. Accordingly having children is also quite uncommon among NEET men with only 6.2 percent having children as opposed to 52 percent of NEET women have children as opposed to 6.2 percent of men.

Furthermore, the analysis of marital status as one of the determinants of being NEET is of particular importance given that Turkey has the lowest female mean age at first marriage and a lower mean age of women at birth among OECD countries.³⁷ Female mean age at first marriage is 24.8 in Turkey whereas the OECD average is 30.2 in 2017. However, the male mean age at first marriage is 27.8, which is higher than the female mean age but is still the second lowest male mean age among OECD countries. Also, Turkey has one of the lowest mean age of women at birth³⁸ , which is 28.6 along with other countries such as Chile (28.5) and Slovak Republic (28.8) whereas the OECD average is 30.6 for this mean age. Erdogan (2018) argues that marriage accompanied by the workload of childcare and domestic chores is an important barrier for females to access education or employment opportunities in Turkey.³⁹ In line with the literature and notable position of Turkey in terms of the marriage and childbirth mean ages of females, this report puts particular importance on the gender dimension of discussions on NEET in Turkey.

Living with parents is another household characteristic in which NEET men and women are completely different from each other. While NEET men almost entirely live with their parents (93.3 percent), only one-third of NEET women live with their parents (33.9 percent) (See Figure 12 Panels b). This is also in line with the fact that NEET men are more likely to be single while NEET women are more likely to be married (Figure 12 Panels b).

³⁷ OECD, 2018
³⁸ Mean age of women at first birth is not available for Turkey in 2017 in OECD Family Statistics.
³⁹ Erdoğan et al., 2017

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تقييم الاثر ، التحليل النوعي ، التحليلات التنموية  ، تحليلات كمية ، اسياسات اجتماعية، البحث النوعي ، جلسات تركيز  ، مناقشات مجموعة التركيز ، تدريب صناع السياسة  ، تدريب  ، تعليم مبكر، ، تعليم الطفولة المبكرة  ، تمكين المرأة ، رعياة الطفولة ، التعليم 

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