Gap between Turkey’s minimum wage and starvation line ‘has almost entirely gone’

Gap between Turkey’s minimum wage and starvation line ‘has almost entirely gone’
A poor quarter of Istanbul. / Sasha Maksymenko, Turkish People, CC-BY-SA 2.0.
By bne IntelIiNews February 2, 2022

The gap between Turkey’s minimum wage and starvation line has almost entirely disappeared amid the collapse of the Turkish lira and soaring inflation, according to a report compiled by the Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions (Turk-Is).

Turk-Is’s “Starvation and Poverty Line Survey” for January, originally reported by bianet, found that a family of four’s monthly food expenditure to attain a healthy and balanced diet—a measure of the starvation line—was Turkish lira (TRY) 4,249 ($319), just a few lira below the minimum wage rate of TRY4,253 ($320). The survey also calculated that the “cost of living” of a single employee has moved up to TRY5,587 ($417).

By some measures—which challenge the official line that Turkish annual inflation stood at 36% at the end of the year—the country’s annual inflation rate by the end of December was above 80% and heading for three digits. The Istanbul Research Group (ENAG) calculated 83%. Analysts describe Turkey’s economic crisis as one of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s own making. Erdogan, citing unorthodox economic thinking, stubbornly refuses to give the nod to higher interest rates in the face of soaring price growth and a severely depreciated lira. The currency lost 44% against the dollar last year. Queues for bread discounted by local authorities have become a regular sight in Turkey’s cities.

'Lira losing value again'

In its report, the confederation noted that "even though there was a sharp fall in foreign exchange rates following the introduction of the foreign exchange-protected Turkish lira deposit scheme in December, the lira has started losing value again".

Referring to an “almost 25-percent increase in food prices in the last month following the record high exchange rates”, Turk-Is said that “the appreciation of the Turkish lira had almost no positive effect on markets and bazaars”.

“As a result of the increases in the prices of fuel oil, electricity, natural gas and public transport, it has become all the more difficult for workers and their families, whose biggest and usually only source of income is the minimum wage, to make ends meet with the minimum wage,” it added.

Erdogan on December 16 announced that the minimum wage would be lifted by 50%, but the hike will add to inflation and if price growth continues upwards on its steep trajectory the value of the wage rise will soon be wiped out.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu on February 1 called for unity to overcome the “hard days” that Turkey is facing, Hurriyet reported.

“We are having hard days. We are going through difficult circumstances together. We will and we must overcome together; we must overcome,” he was quoted as saying at a CHP parliamentary group meeting, adding: “The way to overcome is to be united, to be together, to meet in justice, love and embrace, not to marginalise anyone, and to build a Turkey where everyone lives in peace.”