Turkey’s social assistance regime in comparative perspective: History, administrative structure, programmes and institutional characteristics

A project by the Institute for World Society at the University of Bielefeld in cooperation with the Department of Political Science and Public Administration at Bilkent University in Ankara.
Is Turkey a welfare state in the European meaning of the term? Does the state assume a collective social responsibility for all citizens? From 1961 to the present day, Turkey has described itself as a welfare state in its constitution. More than a third of the government budget is currently devoted to social spending. Yet, the country is not normally perceived as a welfare state. Under the current circumstances, social policy has moved to the background of political debates, but it continues to thoroughly affect people's lives. Against this backdrop, the research project locates Turkey's experience in the field of social security in the broader world of welfare states.

Social security systems and welfare states are key institutions of "modern" societies, shaping basic social structures like labour markets, socio-economic inequality, gender, and the relationship between state, markets, and civil society. Social policy is about fundamental normative understandings of society, constituting a social contract and underpinning social cohesion. Studying social policy, therefore, can lead to a better understanding of the respective society.

The project investigates developments in four key areas of social security since 1980: pensions, health, unemployment, and social assistance. Moreover, the overall shape of Turkey's social security system and its political and ideational backgrounds are analysed. In this way, the project seeks to contribute to a deeper understanding of contemporary Turkey.