Turkey’s pensioners denounce summer vacation ‘gesture’ by ministry

Turkey’s Labor and Social Security Ministry recently announced that state dormitories in southern and Aegean provinces would be freely available for pensioners during summer months. Pensioners met the move with criticism, as they struggled with low salaries amid soaring inflation.

Duvar English

Pensioners in Turkey on May 23 criticized the recent move by the Labor and Social Security Ministry that opened state-run dormitories to their use during the summer months for free. 

Additionally, retirees could benefit from a 15 percent discount at public guesthouses, teachers' lodges, social facilities, and hostels in all provinces, announced the ministry.

As they expected news regarding the increase in pensioner salaries promised in January, Minister Vedat Işıkhan’s announcement disappointed the retirees. The minimum pensioner salary became 10,000 Turkish liras with a 33 percent increase in January. 

In line with experts’ projections, the salary eroded amidst the rampant inflation in the country.  Pensioners await a mid-year raise in line with the producer price index (PPI) to adjust for inflation. 

Speaking to ANKA News Agency, one pensioner said that they have not been anywhere other than their hometown, the capital province of Ankara. They would not be able to cover the costs of a vacation, even with the accommodation covered by the ministry. “What will we eat there? Where's the money?" 

Another commented, "We can't even afford to commute home. Where will we find money, what will we eat, what will we spend? Where to stay is not the issue.”

Expressing his frustration, one retiree said, "Vacation? We cannot even fill our stomachs, and you're talking about vacation," and added, "The minister is just talking to himself. The minister lives a luxurious life. Does he even care?"

Another retiree pointed out that even if they went to the dormitories, they wouldn't have money to spend in those areas, saying, "A man like me is struggling to survive. Retirees will sleep in the dormitory and drink water. There's nothing, this is a retiree's life."

A retiree who said he had voted for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and President Erdoğan for three terms stated, "I am starting to regret voting for them. I currently receive 15,000 TL, and I had to beg to find a house. This government has started making us beg.” 

The pensioners have pressing problems that need long-term solutions, and the ministry seemed to missed the mark with its summer vacation proposal.  

Pensioners are some of the hardest-hit communities by the soaring inflation and the cost of living crisis in Turkey. The current lowest pensioner salary is 10,000 liras (310 dollars), 20 percent below the minimum wage. This is the lowest pensioner salary to minimum wage ratio in Turkish history, with the pension falling below the minimum wage for the first time in 2023. 

Meanwhile, the hunger threshold for a family of four has surpassed the minimum wage for the first time in April 2024, revealing the extent of the cost of life crisis in the country.