Turkey’s Welfare Model: A Balancing Act between Tradition and Modernity

November 10, 2023by Bünyamin Esen0

Turkey’s welfare model is a complex and evolving system that reflects the country’s unique historical and cultural context. Nestled between Europe and Asia, Turkey has undergone significant political, economic, and social transformations over the past century. These changes have had a profound impact on the country’s approach to welfare, aiming to strike a balance between traditional values and modern demands.

This short piece explores Turkey’s welfare model, tracing its historical development, key features, and contemporary challenges.


Historical Development of the Turkish Welfare Model

In the modern meaning of the term, Turkey’s welfare model has developed in the late 20th century. In 1946, Turkey’s welfare system evolved to include social security programs, such as the Social Insurance Organization (Sosyal Sigortalar Kurumu, SSK), which provided health coverage and pensions for workers in the formal sector. These measures aimed to extend the benefits of the welfare state to a larger segment of the population.

In terms of social security, Turkish Welfare model gone through two important reforms, first in 1999 and second in 2008. The 1999 reform started the implementation of the unemployment insurance, while the 2008 Social Security Reform has unified the previously dispersed management of the social security in the country. In addition, the country has implemented a General Health Insurance in 2012.


Key Features of Turkey’s Welfare Model

  1. Universal Healthcare: One of the standout features of Turkey’s welfare model is its universal healthcare system. The country introduced the General Health Insurance (Genel Sağlık Sigortası, GSS) in 2012, providing health coverage to all Turkish citizens and residents. This move represented a significant step toward improving access to healthcare services, although challenges remain in ensuring the quality and sustainability of healthcare delivery.
  2. Social Assistance Programs: Turkey has implemented various social assistance programs to address poverty and inequality. The Conditional Cash Transfer Program (CCT) called the “Family Support Program” provides financial aid to low-income families, conditional on fulfilling certain requirements, such as sending children to school and ensuring they receive regular health check-ups.
  3. Pension System: Turkey has a well-developed pension system that covers both public and private sector employees. The country’s Social Security Institution (SGK) manages the pension system, ensuring retirement benefits for those who contribute during their working years.
  4. Education: Education has been a central focus of Turkey’s welfare model, with efforts to increase access to schooling and improve the quality of education. Compulsory education laws and significant investments in infrastructure and curriculum development have aimed to provide a better future for Turkey’s youth.

Contemporary Challenges

Despite its notable achievements in the last decades, Turkey’s welfare model faces several contemporary challenges:

  1. Economic Instability: The Turkish economy has faced periods of volatility, which can strain the financial sustainability of welfare programs. High inflation and currency devaluation have eroded the purchasing power of citizens and put pressure on the budget.
  2. Inequality: Income and regional disparities persist in Turkey, making it challenging to ensure equitable access to welfare benefits. The government must address these disparities to create a more inclusive welfare model.
  3. Healthcare Quality: While Turkey’s universal healthcare system has expanded access to services, concerns remain about the quality of healthcare delivery and the sustainability of the system.
  4. Refugee Crisis: Turkey has hosted millions of refugees, particularly from Syria, placing additional stress on its welfare infrastructure. Managing the needs of refugees while ensuring the welfare of the host population remains a significant challenge.



In sum, Turkey’s welfare model has evolved significantly over the past century, reflecting the country’s transition from an empire to a modern nation-state. While the system includes universal healthcare, social assistance programs, and a comprehensive pension system, it faces contemporary challenges such as economic instability, inequality, healthcare quality, and the refugee crisis. The success of Turkey’s welfare model will depend on its ability to adapt to these challenges while maintaining a balance between tradition and modernity, addressing the needs of its diverse population, and promoting social cohesion and development.

Bünyamin Esen

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