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Income generation, informality and poverty in urban Turkey

Şebnem Eroğlu (School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 13 June 2017




The purpose of this paper is to examine the key sources of poor urban households’ relative success (or failure) in reducing poverty by income generation activities. It specifically investigates the conditions of informal employment in order to understand how and to what extent they affect households’ chances of success.


The data were drawn from interviews with 17 low-income households randomly selected from an informal gecekondu settlement based in the capital city of Turkey.


The research challenges the dominant viewpoint, which attributes success to having fewer dependants or more resources. It shows that success depends more on the benefit delivery capacity of resources and this depends largely on wider structural factors. Informal employment is found to constitute one key structural factor, which limits households’ chances of success to a greater extent than formal employment not only through condemning them to low pay but also through imposing more restrictions upon their access to state welfare.

Research limitations/implications

The case study has significant implications for poverty research and measurement since it reinforces the idea that an improved understanding of poverty and its causes requires a multi-dimensional approach that takes into account the conditions of work extending beyond pay.

Practical implications

The study shows that substantial improvement upon the lives of poor households requires changes at the macro-level, and the adoption of an employment-centred approach where the priority is given to the creation of jobs with decent working conditions, tighter labour market regulation and effective enforcement of these regulations.


Through a qualitative as well as quantitative exploration of low-income households living in the periphery of the Turkish capital, the study empirically challenges the conventional wisdom about urban survival which overemphasises the resilience of poor people. It also contributes to the less developed parts of the research literature on informal employment through demonstrating its poverty-inducing effects. Furthermore, the study makes a theoretical contribution by developing a new conceptual framework that places informal employment within the wider context of household resources, livelihoods and poverty.



Eroğlu, Ş. (2017), "Income generation, informality and poverty in urban Turkey", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 37 No. 5/6, pp. 295-310.



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