As Turkey’s Minimum Wage Determination Commission meets this week to set the minimum wage for 2022, Turkey’s Revolutionary Workers’ Union (DİSK) has released a report showing that Turkey now has the second-lowest minimum wage in Europe after Albania.
The report of DİSK-AR, DİSK’s research arm, decries the minimum wage in Turkey - now approximately 2,800 Turkish lira, or $181.13 Euro, per month after taxes - as a pittance. As the value of the lira plummets, losing nearly 30% of its value in November alone, the value of minimum wage plummets in kind. This trend is even more exaggerated when viewed over the course of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) tenure. According to the DİSK report, one could buy 25 full Cumhuriyet gold coins with an annual minimum wage salary in 2003 versus only 7 coins at current prices.
Turkey’s monthly minimum wage makes its laborers some of the poorest in Europe. The only country, according to the report, with a lower-valued minimum wage is Albania. For comparison, Albania’s annual GDP is 14.8 billion USD. Turkey’s is 720.1 billion.
DİSK-AR urged the government to rage the minimum wage.
“As the minimum wage rapidly turns into the average wage, and as this wage is quite insufficient for the minimum [standard of] living, expectations for the minimum wage are rising,” the report wrote.
The report further noted that 10 million people in Turkey, nearly 12% of the population, are working at or under minimum wage. Roughly 6.3 people work for minimum wage, while an additional 3.4 million work, illegally, for less. Approximately 1.7 million people work for less than 1,500 liras a month. This issue is exacerbated for women - approximately 60% of working women work for wages at or below minimum wage.
“The minimum wage concerns all employees and their families living conditions. In the face of the loss of purchasing power due to the high cost and successive price hikes, the minimum wage remains quite inadequate, making life worthy of human dignity even more impossible,” the report said.
The report also found that the gap between the minimum wage and average wage in Turkey is narrowing - in other words, an increasing number of people in Turkey are working minimum wage jobs.
“Turkey is rapidly transforming into a society of minimum wage earners,” the report found.
Minimum wage discussions are happening amidst a historic economic crisis in Turkey. The lira has lost nearly 50% of its value against the dollar this year, reaching a record low of 14.0 to the dollar earlier this week. Prices and inflation are also at historic highs - the state-run Turkish Statistical Institute TÜİK says that inflation stands at 20%, but experts fear the real number is far higher.
Despite this, the AKP-led government, under the leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has repeatedly cut interest rates and insists on continuing to do so, against the advice of economic experts. Party representatives say the rise in FX rates will encourage foreign investment, but DİSK says it is driving Turkish laborers into poverty.
“Those who explain the depreciation of the TL on the basis of the increase in competitiveness and the fact that foreign capital will invest in Turkey are silent in the face of the decreasing wages and impoverishment of the working classes in Turkey,” the report wrote.