Turkey's social security system 'on the brink of collapse'

As the state treasury transfers billions of liras to its Social Security Institution and channels funds to private health organizations, the opposition fears that Turkey might reach a point where it won’t be able to pay the salaries of pensioners.

K. Murat Yıldız / Duvar English 

One of the characteristics of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is their lack of self-criticism and their ability to put the onus of their failures on others, whether it be external enemies or domestic ones. When it comes to criticizing others, they are very generous.

Erdoğan often targets the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and accuses him of bankrupting the Social Insurance Institution (SSK) during his period as the general manager in the 1990s when he was awarded "Civil Servant of the Year."

"When Kılıçdaroğlu was running the SSK, the deficit was 2 billion Turkish liras. Today, we're talking about 250 billion Turkish liras for the Social Security Institution (SGK)," (the SGK replaced the SSK in 2006) CHP senior advisor and Istanbul deputy Erdoğan Toprak told Duvar English.

“The social security system is on the verge of collapse. It has been surviving only via the support of the treasury for a long time. Its deficits have increased continuously. More than 200 billion liras have been transferred from the Treasury to cover its losses.“

Political interventions

“The most important reason for the SGK's deficit is the deterioration of the income-expenditure balance due to high unemployment. Other factors are inadequate supervision, premium amnesties, and political interventions,” General Health Union (Genel Sağlık-İş) chairperson Zekiye Bacaksız told Duvar English.

According to a report by Toprak as of November 2020, the number of actively insured employees is 20.4 million. Five years ago in 2015, this number was 19.2 million. In five years, the number of people who work actively insured and pay premiums has increased by only 1.2 million. The increase in the number of unemployed to 10 million as of November reveals why the number of employees who pay active premiums has not increased.

In the same five-year period, the number of pensioners from SGK increased by 1.87 million. In other words, while the number of active employees registered by SGK increased by 220,000 per year over 5 years, the number of pensioners increased by 375,000.

Government unemployment statistics don’t reflect the truth

“As employment decreases, the number of pensioners’ will continue to rise, and the deficit of the SGK will widen,” Toprak warned. "They are hiding the real unemployment rates. The real unemployment today is over 20 percent as youth unemployment stands around 40 percent. People who have lost their hope of finding a job and have stopped searching for one via government institutions are not considered unemployed after 4 weeks.”

Social Security System not used for people’s benefit

“The state social security system has become an instrument to channel money to private health organizations,” and the much criticized ‘City Hospitals’ according to Toprak, which are built and run by pro-government companies.

“I fear that one day the state will not be able to pay the salaries of the retired people who are already suffering.”