Minimum wage barely above hunger threshold in Turkey

Turkey’s biggest trade union confederation Türk-İş has calculated the hunger threshold – which indicates the minimum amount of money needed to save a four-member family from starvation a month – as 2,163 liras and the poverty threshold as 7,054 liras. The government announced on Dec. 26 that the net monthly minimum wage in the country will be 2,324 liras in 2020, up from 2,021 liras in 2019.

Duvar English

The hunger threshold for a family of four was 2,163 Turkish Liras ($363) monthly as of December, the Confederation of Turkish Labor Unions (Türk-İş) announced on Dec. 27.

The hunger threshold shows the minimum amount of money needed to save a four-member family from starvation. This figure was calculated as 1,941 liras in December of last year.

Türk-İş also announced the poverty threshold for a family of four, saying it hit 7,045 liras ($1,182) as of December.

The poverty threshold indicates the money needed for a family of four to feed itself sufficiently and healthily, and it also covers the expenditures on basic necessities such as clothing, rent, electricity, water, transportation, education and health.

Türk-İş had announced this poverty threshold being 6,322 liras in December of last year.

On Dec. 26, the government announced that the net minimum wage will be increased to 2,324 liras a month as of Jan. 1, 2020 — marking a 15 percent increase. This angered the Türk-İş representatives, who had been pushing for a minimum increase of 28 percent.

'Minimum wage very close to hunger threshold'

On. Dec. 27, Türk-İş President Ergün Atalay said that the new minimum wage was “way below their expectations” and it was a figure very close to the hunger threshold.

“We had previously said that 'we would not accept a figure below 2,578 liras' and we did not,” Atalay said, referring to the Türk-İş representatives' protesting the new minimum wage and walking out of the negotiations a day earlier.

'20 million people live on minimum wage'

“Almost 20 million people live on this figure [monthly minimum wage]. The wage rise is said to be higher than the inflation, but this [official] inflation is different than the inflation that the average person on the street experiences. It would have been better if they had not given anything, but just increased the minimum wage in the amount of the increase in the electricity and gas prices,” Atalay said.

Atalay was referring to Labor, Social Services and Family Minister Zehra Zümrüt Selçuk's remarks a day earlier that the wage rise is three percentage points higher than 2019 inflation expectation. The Turkish Central Bank has an inflation forecast of 12 percent for 2019 and 8.2 percent for 2020.

The Minimum Wage Determination Commission launched its negotiations on Dec. 2 and its last meeting took place on Dec. 26. The commission consists of 15 members: five members from Türk-İş, representing the workers' side; five members from the Turkish Confederation of Employer Associations (TİSK), representing the employers’ side; and five members from various government bodies such as the Labor, Social Services and Family Ministry, Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK), Development Ministry and Undersecreteriat of Treasury.

'Commission's structure is not democratic'

Atalay criticized the structure of the commission, saying that “no just decision” would come out of it. He said the government and the employers had decided on the minimum wage together.

“This structure [commission] exists for the last 40 years; it is not a democratic structure. A just decision would not come out of the commission's structure as was the case yesterday,” he said.