A Look at the ‘Hidden Side’: Turkish Women in Berlin’s Ethnic Labour Market


Recent studies show that ethnic economies are an increasingly vital part of the larger national economy. This is especially true in the case of the Turkish ethnic economy in Germany. This article sheds light on a ‘hidden aspect’ of Berlin’s Turkish ethnic economy: the structure and role of Turkish female labour and female self‐employment. It begins with a general discussion on the significance of the gender concept in the international debate on ethnic economies – including findings on minority and immigrant women in self‐employment in Europe. The second section of the article focuses on Berlin, using an analysis of the official labour market data at hand to sketch the gendered structure of Berlin’s labour market. The third section presents exploratory empirical data concentrating exclusively on female Turkish entrepreneurs and employees. The results indicate that some of the gendered traits of the ethnic economies described in the international literature also appear in the Berlin survey: the under‐representation of women as entrepreneurs and their difficult position in the overall labour market. Furthermore, the data suggest that the concept of ‘ethnic business’ as typically presented in the literature turns out to be a ‘male’ concept and is hardly applicable to the case of the Turkish women in Berlin. The common features of the concept (ethnic clientele, suppliers, labour or involved kin, orientation towards the ethnic community) applied only partially to the Turkish women entrepreneurs.