The Impact of Conservative Discourses in Family Policies, Population Politics, and Gender Rights in Poland and Turkey
- Social Politics: International Studies in Gender, State and Society
- Oxford University Press
- Volume 18, Number 3, Fall 2011
- pp. 387-418
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This article uses childcare as a case study to test the impact of ideas that embody a traditional understanding of gender relations in relation to childcare. Conservative ideas regard increasing female labor market participation as a cause of decreasing fertility on the functioning of a set of general policies to increase fertility rates. It looks into the Polish and Turkish contexts for empirical evidence. The Polish context shows a highly institutionalized system of family policies in contrast to almost unessential institutions in Turkey. Formally, the labor market participation of women is much lower in Turkey than in Poland. Yet, given the size of the informal market in Turkey, women's labor participation is obviously higher than what appears in the statistics. Bearing in mind this divergence, the article suggests Poland and Turkey as two typologies for studying population politics in contexts where socially conservative ideas regarding gender remain paramount. We qualify ideas as conservative if they enforce a traditional understanding of gender relations in care-giving and underline women's role in the labor market as an element of declining fertility. In order to delineate ideational impact, this article looks into how ideas (a) supplant and (b) substitute formal institutions. Therefore, we argue that there are two mechanisms pertaining to the dominance of conservative conventions: conservative ideas may either supplant the institutional impact on family policies, or substitute them thanks to a superior reasoning which societies assign to them. Furthermore, conservative conventions prevail alongside women's customary unpaid work as care-givers regardless of the level of their formal workforce participation. We propose as our major findings for the literature of population politics that ideas, as ubiquitous belief systems, are more powerful than institutions since they provide what is perceived as legitimate, acceptable, and good for the societies under study. In the end, irrespective of the presence of institutions, socially conservative ideas prevail.