Between welfare state and (state-organised) charity

Kerem Gabriel Öktem (Universitat Bielefeld Fakultat fur Soziologie, Bielefeld, Germany)
Cansu Erdogan (Universitat Bielefeld Fakultat fur Soziologie, Bielefeld, Germany)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Publication date: 15 August 2019



Over the last four decades, Turkey has built an elaborate social assistance regime, which provides extensive coverage of the poor but lacks some of the key characteristics of European minimum income protection systems. The purpose of this paper is to explore what ideational roots underlie the regime and how these ideas and paradigms historically shaped the structure of the regime. The paper focuses on two central social assistance legislations: the social pensions law of 1976 and the Law that established the Fund for the Encouragement of Social Cooperation and Solidarity in 1986.


Based on a discursive institutionalist approach, the paper combines a qualitative content analysis of parliamentary debates and official reports with a policy analysis of social assistance legislations in Turkey.


The paper shows that two competing policy paradigms shaped the ambivalent structure and design of Turkey social assistance regime: a welfare state paradigm and a state-organised charity paradigm. The welfare state paradigm, which perceives social assistance as a social right, was dominant in the 1970s and is embodied in the social pension programme. The state-organised charity paradigm, which aims to reinvigorate the Islamic tradition of charitable foundations (waqf), was dominant in the 1980s and is embodied in the Fund for the Encouragement of Social Cooperation and Solidarity. Today’s social assistance regime combines both elements in a curious synthesis.


The paper contributes to comparative social policy research and discursive institutionalism by uncovering the historical and ideational foundations of a largely neglected case, social assistance in Turkey.



The authors would like to thank Lutz Leisering for very valuable comments and suggestions. The research has been supported by Stiftung Mercator (Project: “How ‘social’ is Turkey? Turkey’s social security system in a European context”, part of the program “Blickwechsel. Contemporary Turkey Studies”).


Öktem, K. and Erdogan, C. (2019), "Between welfare state and (state-organised) charity", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.

Download as .RIS



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

Please note you might not have access to this content

You may be able to access this content by login via Shibboleth, Open Athens or with your Emerald account.
If you would like to contact us about accessing this content, click the button and fill out the form.