Changing Retirement Patterns In Turkey: A Comparative Study of Metal and Municipal Sector Workers

Asya Saydam
Bogazici University Atatürk Institute for Modern Turkish History
Graduation Date: 
Ayşe Buğra
Changing Retirement Patterns In Turkey: A Comparative Study of Metal and Municipal Sector Workers

This thesis analyzes the compatibility of the pension component of the social security system in Turkey with prevailing labor market structure and current employment characteristics. During the last two decades, the Turkish welfare regime has gone through a rapid transformation. In this process of transformation, the previous inegalitarian corporatist structure of the social insurance schemes with fragmented schemes for government employees, workers and the self-employed were united under a single Social Security Institution in 2008. Partly following the recommendations of international actors such as the World Bank and the IMF, Turkey gradually reformed its pension system, first in 1999 by increasing the age of retirement. In 2008, retirement age was increased again while the replacement rates were lowered. Currently, there are debates over the sustainability of these reforms. While the establishment of a unified social security institution is considered to be a positive improvement which has eliminated the notorious inefficiency that characterized the previous social security system, the reforms can be criticized for overlooking the different experiences in employment relations which have an important impact on the retirement experiences of the future pensioners. In order to represent this oversight, thesis depends on a qualitative research where a total of 32 focus group discussions and one-on-one interviews with unionized workers and retired workers of two different sectors, metal industry and municipality sectors, were conducted. By presenting a qualitative research the study aims to link the structure of the social security system and the prevailing labor market structure to the real life patterns of workers, keeping the concept of retirement in the center. The two groups were chosen in order to compare sectoral differences as a determinant feature for retirement perceptions, attitudes and prospects of retirement which the pension reform had overlooked. The research argues that the retirement patterns were influenced by changing labor market structure, employment relations in different sectors and pension system parameters. The thesis concludes by arguing that in the light of the combination of the post-1980 labor market changes and the reforms in the pension system that changed the terms of intergenerational solidarity, the social pension system essentially needs to be rethought with the current working conditions.