Investing in Turkey’s poorest children will spur economic growth, report says

Thursday, April 8, 2010
ISTANBUL — Hürriyet Daily News
Children in Şırnak. DHA photo
Children in Şırnak. DHA photo

Turkish children have vastly different odds of success in life and too often their chances are decided by factors they have no control over, such as the wealth or education of their parents, according to a new World Bank report.

Investing in children and in the youth will give them the skills to escape the cycle as opportunities tend to be passed from one generation to the next, the report found. It also means they can contribute more to Turkey’s economic growth and social development, according to the report, entitled Turkey: Expanding Opportunities for the Next Generation.”

“There are important inequities in Turkish society today, and girls are at a particular disadvantage. A girl born in a remote village to a poor family and parents with primary education degrees will very likely struggle in almost every area of her development,” said Jesko Hentschel, lead author of the report. “Compared to a boy born to well-off parents with higher education in an urban center on the West coast, she is four times more likely to suffer from low birth weight; she is one-third as likely to be immunized, and 10 times as likely to have her growth stunted as a result of malnutrition. Similarly she has a one in five chance to complete high school, whereas the boy will likely finish school and move onto university.”

Although there have been projects in Turkey to reach out to and support disadvantaged children, currently only 6 percent of the total public social spending in Turkey reaches children below the age of 6 – about four times more is spent on a middle-aged or elderly person than on a child.

“Turkey has set ambitious targets for early childhood development, including strengthening preschool education and the role that family doctors play in monitoring children’s growth and ensuring that families have access to the resources they need,” said Reza Hossaini, UNICEF representative in Turkey, commenting on the report. “These programs, especially those that boost early childhood development programs for the most vulnerable children, have the potential to make a huge difference in Turkey, improving the lives of children now and those of all Turks in the long run.”

In its assessment of only one program – preschool education – the World Bank report finds a large positive economic and social impact. If today’s adult generation below the age of 40 had all benefited from one year of preschool education when they were 6 years old, family incomes could be up to 8 percent higher, one-10th of these families would not live in poverty as they do today, and many more women – about 9 percent – could be working or looking actively for a job today.

“When you provide opportunities for children from diverse backgrounds, it drives economic growth by allowing them to break the cycle of poverty that families can get trapped in, where children grow up poor and stay poor their entire lives,” said Ulrich Zachau, the World Bank’s Country Director for Turkey. “This makes it an economic as well as a moral imperative to make sure that opportunities are blind to circumstances for Turkish children. Achieving that will help the next generation reach its full potential as it shaped Turkey’s future.”


Posted on 2010/04/09, in The World Today and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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