Measuring distance to the SDG targets – Turkey

Turkey has already achieved 16 of the 123 SDG targets for which comparable data are available and, based on most recent trends, is expected to meet 5 additional targets by 2030 (Figure 1). As virtually all OECD countries, Turkey has already met (or is close to meeting) most targets related to securing basic needs and implementing the policy tools and frameworks mentioned in the 2030 Agenda (see details in Table 1). Turkey is among the fastest growing OECD economies, yet challenges remain.

This country profile provides a high-level overview of some of Turkey’s strengths and challenges in performance across the SDG targets, and as such differs from Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) or other reporting processes. To ensure international comparability, this assessment builds on the global indicator framework and relies on data sourced from the SDG Global Database and OECD databases. VNRs typically use national indicators that reflect national circumstances and are more up-to-date (See section How to read this country profile that provides some methodological details on country profiles).

Turkey is among the fastest growing OECD economies. On average, over the past 15 years, GDP per capita increased by more than 3% (Target 8.1) while productivity grew by almost 2.7% a year. Turkey is also one of the biggest providers of Official Development Assistance (USD 8 billion, representing 1.12% of GNI), ranking second behind Sweden (Target 17.2), most of it allocated to humanitarian assistance to the Middle East. Yet, the high cost of sending migrants’ remittances limits their full potential (Target 10.c).

Over the past few years, Turkey has strengthened its institutional framework to address environmental challenges. Turkey performs relatively well on few targets, i.e. 14.b on access rights for small-scale fisheries, 15.2 on sustainable use of forests and 15.9 on integrating ecosystems and biodiversity values into national and local planning. Turkey also appears close to meeting Targets on education for sustainable development (4.7, 12.8 and 13.3). Yet, Turkey scores below the OECD average on some policy indicators such as Targets 14.4 on overfishing and IUU fishing, 14.6 on harmful subsidies to fisheries, 15.6 on benefit-sharing from genetic resources and 6.5 on water resources management. On energy (Goal 7), Turkey has met Target 7.1 on access to energy and is close to meeting Target 7.3 on energy efficiency, thanks to relatively low energy intensity.

Benefits of economic growth have not been evenly distributed. Average earnings of employees (USD PPP 8 per hour in 2014) are half the OECD average and unemployment rate is high (13% in 2020). Also, low social protection coverage (Target 1.3) and limited redistribution trough taxes and transfers (Target 10.4) result in low pro-poor growth (Target 10.1) and high poverty (Targets 1.2 and 10.2). Addressing unequal opportunities for minorities, youth and women will require further efforts. Turkey only partially meets the requirements to facilitate orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration (Target 10.7) and 35% of the Turkish population do not believe that the country is a good place to live for ethnic and racial minorities (Target 10.3). Turkey had among the highest NEET rate in the OECD in 2019, with 29% of youth (aged 15-29 years) not in education, employment or training (Target 8.6). Tackling gender inequality is also among Turkey’s main challenges. One in ten ever-partnered women experienced violence by a current or former partner (Target 5.2) and while data are lacking to monitor the legal frameworks toward gender equality (Target 5.1), Turkey lacks a legal framework to protect women and girls from female genital mutilation (Target 5.3). Women bear the lion share of unpaid care and housework (Target 5.4) and they are under-represented in both the public and economic spheres (Target 5.5)

Turkey is far from targets relating to human capital. Education outcomes are low. The year before primary school, one in four children is not enrolled in early childhood education and care (Target 4.2). Only 63% of 15-year-olds achieved PISA level 2 in mathematics in 2018 (Target 4.1) and differences in socio-economic background, gender, immigration status and location contribute to large disparities in education outcomes (Target 4.5). Nearly half of the working age population (aged 16-65 years) lack a basic proficiency in numeracy and literacy (Target 4.6) while the participation rate (among population aged 25-64 years) in lifelong learning was only 21% in 2016 (Target 4.3). Turkey also underperforms OECD countries on ICT skills of young people and adults (Target 4.4). In addition, behavioural risk factors are a challenge to people’s health (Target 2.2 on malnutrition and Target 3.a on tobacco consumption).

As a rapidly growing economy, Turkey faces a range of environmental pressures, such as scarcity and low quality of water and increasing air pollution. Turkey appears to be scoring below the OECD on most targets underpinning Goal 6 on water and sanitation. This may be due to several factors including overuse (Target 6.4), limited integrated management of water resources (Target 6.5), discharge of untreated wastewater and insufficient wastewater treatment facilities (Targets 6.2 and 6.3) and diffuse pollution. Air quality is another major concern, with population exposure to fine particulate matter higher than both the OECD average and WHO guidelines (Targets 11.6 and 12.5). When it comes to protecting biodiversity, available data suggest that terrestrial and marine protected areas remain significantly lower than global targets, notably when it comes to protecting areas that are considered to be key for biodiversity (Targets 14.5, 15.1, 15.4).

Turkey is also far from meeting some targets of the Peace category (Goal 16). Four in ten people do not feel safe when walking alone at night in the city or area where they live (Target 16.1). On rule of law (Target 16.3), data shows that un-sentenced detention is high (30% of prisoners were still waiting a judgement in 2018) and according to perception-based measures, 63% of citizens do not trust the judicial system (Target 16.6). On inclusive decision-making (Target 16.7), the central government workforce is not very diverse in terms of gender and age. Turkey is also at a large distance to Target 16.a, with low compliance of independent National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) with the Paris Principles.

Like in many other OECD countries, data availability remains a challenge when measuring distances to targets (see the Overview chapter for details). For Turkey, available data on the level of the different indicators allow covering 123 of the 169 targets. As shown in Figure 2 below, indicator coverage is uneven across the 17 goals. While six goals (within the People, Planet and Prosperity categories) have most of their targets covered (the indicator coverage exceeds 80%), coverage is lower for Goals 11 on cities and 14 on life below water, with only half of their targets covered. Data gaps become starker when focusing on performance indicators, excluding those providing contextual information. In this case, target coverage exceeds 80% for only three Goals, i.e. Goals 3 on health, 4 on education and 10 on inequalities. Moreover, for seven goals, mostly within the Planet category (Goals 12, 13, 14 and 15) but also in Goals 5 on gender equality, 11 on cities and 17 on partnerships, the data are lacking to monitor changes over time for more than two in three targets.

While some SDG Targets are, on average, close to being met, performance is very uneven across the 17 Goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Table 1 presents an overview of Turkey’s progress towards targets based on available data for each of the 17 Goals. It shows that distances to Targets and trends over time differ significantly even when considering a specific goal.

The OECD report The Short and Winding Road to 2030: Measuring Distance to the SDG Targets evaluates the distance that OECD countries need to travel to meet SDG targets for which data are currently available. It also looks at whether countries have been moving towards or away from these targets, and how likely they are to meet their commitments by 2030, based on an analysis of recent trends and the observed volatility in the different indicators.

As most authors and international organisations, this report adopts a rather simple geometric growth model for assessing the direction and pace of recent changes in the context of the SDGs. Yet, instead of making direct estimates of the value of the indicator by 2030, it models the likelihood of achieving a specific level using Monte Carlo simulations.

While the report provides an overview of where OECD countries, taken as a whole, currently stand, country profiles provide details of the performance and data availability of individual OECD countries.

Progress on SDGs requires a granular understanding of countries’ strengths and weaknesses based on the consideration of the 169 targets of the 2030 Agenda. Figure 1 shows both current achievements (in the inner circle; the longer the bar, the smaller the distance remaining to be travelled) as well as whether OECD countries are on track (or are at least making progress) to meet their commitments by 2030 (in the outer circle).

The length of each bar shows current level of achievement on each target. As detailed in the Methodological Annex, countries’ distance to target is measured as the “standardised difference” between a country’s current position and the target end-value. For each indicator, the standardised measurement unit (s.u.) is the standard deviation observed among OECD countries in the reference year (i.e. the year closest to 2015). Therefore, the longer the bar, the shorter the distance still to be travelled to reach the target by 2030. The colours of the bars applied to the various targets refer to the goals they pertain to.

The outer ring shows how OECD countries are performing over time and how likely they are to meet the different targets by 2030 based on the observed trends of the various indicators. It uses stoplight colours to classify the progress towards the target:

  • green is used to indicate those countries that (based on the change in the different indicators over a recent period) should meet the target in 2030 just by maintaining their current pace of progress (i.e. more than 75% of (randomised) projections meet the target);

  • yellow for those countries whose current pace of progress is insufficient to meet the target by 2030 (i.e. less than 75% of randomised projections meet the target, while the correlation coefficient between the indicator and the year is high and statistically significant, implying that a significant trend could be detected); and

  • red for those countries whose recent changes have been stagnating or moving them further away from the target (i.e. less than 75% of randomised projections meet the target and the correlation coefficient between the indicator and the year is low or statistically insignificant, implying that no statistical trend could be identified).

With the aim of helping its member countries in navigating the 2030 Agenda and in setting their own priorities for action, this report relies on a unique methodology for measuring the distance that OECD countries have to travel to achieve SDG targets. The identification of the main strengths and challenges proposed in this report relies on current performances only:

  • A target is considered to be a strength when the distance to the target end-value is lower than 0.5 s.u. (i.e. the distance is deemed to be small) or when the country is closer to the target than the OECD average. For instance, while Korea's distance to Target 2.2 on malnutrition is 1.4 s.u. (i.e. classified as medium distance), the average OECD distance is 2.5 s.u. Therefore, Target 2.2 is categorised as being a strength for Korea.

  • A target is considered to be a challenge when the distance to target is greater than 1.5 s.u. (i.e. distance is deemed to be long) or when the country is further away from the target than the OECD average. For instance, Estonia's distance to Target 4.2 on pre-primary education is 1.1 s.u. (i.e. medium distance), which is higher than the 0.24 s.u. distance for the OECD average. Target 4.2 is therefore classified as a weakness for Estonia.

While the lack of consistent time series often prevents an exhaustive assessment of trends, they are discussed when available and relevant in nuancing the assessment of current performance.

In total, this report relies on 537 data series supporting 183 of the 247 indicators listed in the global indicator framework (or for close proxies of these indicators). These indicators cover 134 of the 169 SDG targets. Yet, target coverage is uneven across the 17 goals and among OECD member countries.

Figure 2 summarises data availability:

  • darker blue bars indicate the share of targets for which at least one indicator (including indicators providing context information) is available

  • lighter blue bars indicate the share of targets for which the available indicator(s) include those having a clear normative direction (i.e. allowing to distinguish between good and bad performance), which are the only ones used to measure distances to target levels.

  • medium blue bars indicate the share of targets for which progress over time can be gauged (i.e. at least three observations are available over a five-year period).

All methods and concepts are further detailed in the Methodological Annex.

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