Can Child Care Vouchers Get Turkish Mothers Back to Work?

Lack of access to affordable and quality child care is one of the impediments to increasing female labor force participation rates in Turkey. With less than one third of working age women active in the labor market, the Turkish government has been considering options for expanding female labor force participation by providing a demand side subsidy conditional on employment (or activation). To achieve this, utilization of child care is being considered as a policy option. This paper considers the labor supply impact and cost effectiveness of such a demand side subsidy by evaluating the labor supply model of women in Turkey under the current conditions and simulates -- under various targeting scenarios and for different benefit levels of the subsidy -- (i) the number of women that would join the labor force or become formally employed; (ii) the budgetary implications and cost effectiveness of the subsidy; and (iii) the potential benefits accrued by the bottom quintiles of society. Given the constrained supply of existing services, the paper finds that the immediate employment impact of such a demand side intervention is likely to be low, and the distribution regressive in the short term. A targeted subsidy based on welfare level and employability of the woman is likely to be most cost effective in the medium term when supply side constraints on child care are addressed and concurrent policies to expand the supply of child care have been implemented. In the short term, when the subsidy is provided conditional on child care utilization (and there is no targeting of the poor) the benefits are likely to be highly regressive, with only 3 percent of benefits accruing to the bottom quintile of the population.