On one hand, there is a matter of life and death, while on the other hand there is the risk that living conditions, already battered by the crisis, will get worse. Indeed, the priority is staying alive, but it is also a huge mystery how life will go on afterward. The agony of the economic model based on consumption and construction was experienced in the last crisis with tens of thousands losing their jobs and widespread poverty. It is difficult to imagine what kind of destruction coronavirus will add to this. This is a question the entire world is pondering.
Yet, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government in Turkey is not taking even a bit of notice. It is keen on maintaining the infected economic model no matter what. It has already shown its preference by easing the hand of the employer through credits, loans, tax and incentives. Oddly enough, in an epidemic in which everyone has to stay at home, they are opting for practices that make consumption attractive.
Well, will things improve through faith in God, prayer, and bailout packages that make the bosses smile?
Just as the approach of using “dollars, weapons, crises, and conspiracies” did not prevent the economic crisis from creating a new army of unemployed people and the spread of poverty, the same paradigm does not seem to possibly prevent the destruction that is being caused by the virus. How long can one hide the fact that even as of today, tens of thousands of people have lost their jobs for an unknown period? Not including them in measurement packages corresponds to what in real life?
Let us make a rough projection, item by item, how many employees the virus epidemic has affected and will affect.
According to SGK data, except for public and temporary work places, in Turkey there are 1,791,956 private workplaces. The number of insured workers in these places is 12,655,273. More than half of them are in the service sector.
In the first stage, as a measure taken because of the epidemic, close to 150,000 workplaces were closed. These were mostly cafes, bars, hairdressers, restaurants, tea gardens, cinemas and sports halls. These venues have an average staff of one to nine people. In other words, 200,000 to 1,000,000 people immediately lost their jobs for an indefinite period.
Then restrictions were introduced to shopping malls. Up until now, 40 malls have been closed totally and the rest have had their hours restricted. The branches of about 180 companies located in shopping malls were locked down. The number of people working in shopping malls, according to the data provided by the Council of Shopping Centers, is 530,000. The association stated that 70 percent of the stores in malls have closed. These shopping centers are mostly in major cities and two-thirds of the staff working there have temporarily lost their jobs.
The main sector the virus has directly affected in the first stage is indeed the service sector. The retail, food and beverage, accommodation and travel businesses have emerged as sensitive areas within the sector. If we include ancillary services, the total is 519,949 workplaces and 2,438,635 workers.
Furniture, textile and wholesale trade are next in line to be affected. The number of workplaces for this group is 234,680, and the number of workers is 2,007,821.
One of the most dangerous lines of work right now regarding the spread of the epidemic is transportation and courier activities, which have not experienced a serious cut yet. However, considering their relationship with retail and wholesale trade, it means in a short time there will be serious problems in that field as well. In this field, there are 21,441 workplaces and 295,656 workers.
When those sectors are reviewed and we consider those who are directly affected by staying at home, we can say that the means of living of 4,446,456 workers are under serious risk in 754,629 workplaces. If we add construction to this, which has 1,218,806 insured workers and is to suspend its activities shortly, then the number of workers is close to 6 million. If their families are included, then it is not an exaggeration to estimate that the epidemic, at the first glance, will hit more than 15 million people economically. Moreover, it must also be said that these are the least organized, most insecure and low-income branches of work.
It is not just for nothing that many states in the world are giving salary and job guarantees and offering income support. It is a simple economic rule that when the power of mass consumption is damaged, then what you produce does not have much of a meaning.
If the services sector, which keeps both consumption and employment alive in the country, collapses, then there will not be an economy left that we could save with prayers and so on. Unless a series of measures is implemented to provide job and income guarantees that starts with the most economically threatened workers, the virus wins in every scenario.