Labor union recommends raising Turkey’s minimum wage 4 times a year due to record inflation

Photo by Yasin AKGUL / AFP

The research center from a leading labor union in Turkey has said in its latest report that the Turkish government should increase the monthly minimum wage four times a year to tackle high inflation and a cost-of-living crisis in Turkey, Turkish Minute reported.

Turkey has been battling soaring consumer prices and a high cost of living for several years, with inflation standing at 75.4 percent in May, according to official data.

The Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (DİSK-AR) research center released its report on the minimum wage and taxation on its website on Monday, accompanied by a presentation by DİSK Chairwoman Arzu Çerkezoğlu during a press conference in İstanbul.

It comes a week after Labor Minister Vedat Işıkhan ruled out the prospect of an interim increase in the monthly minimum wage for the second half of 2024 despite expectations.

The DİSK-AR report recommends that the government raise the minimum wage, which is currently TL 17,002, four times a year during periods of high inflation until it is reduced to single digits.

Çerkezoğlu said the minimum wage remains below the hunger threshold now and is expected to be TL 4,000 or 5,000 below the threshold by the end of the year, adding that the government’s decision not to implement an interim increase means leaving millions of people to starve.

In the run-up to the general election in May 2023 and local elections in March, the Turkish government introduced a series of wage and pension hikes, aiming to align salaries and benefits with rising living expenses.

With no elections taking place until 2028, interim adjustments to the minimum wage and pensions seem to no longer be on the government’s agenda.

The hunger threshold, which is defined as the amount of money that a family of four living in the capital city of Ankara needs to spend for healthy and balanced nourishment, was TL 18,980 ($580) in June, nearly TL 2,000 above the minimum wage of TL 17,002, according to data from the Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions (TÜRK-İŞ).

“More than half of Turkey’s working class is condemned to earn the minimum wage, and the minimum wage is crushed by inflation,” Çerkezoğlu said.

According to a report, Turkey has one of the lowest minimum wages in Europe, with only five countries having lower minimum wages at the beginning of the year, down from 12 in 2014.

The report also said that as part of its “tight fiscal policy” aimed at recovering the economy, the AKP government aims to control inflation by not increasing wages, which will reduce purchasing power and hit mostly low-income earners.

According to the report, the government’s claim that wage increases would fuel inflation is “unrealistic.”

“There’s no wage-price [inflation] spiral in the economy, but rather a price [inflation]-wage spiral. Inflation does not increase because wages increase, on the contrary, wages increase because inflation increases,” the report said.

In Turkey, roughly one-third of its 85 million population earns the minimum wage.

The last time the government adjusted the minimum wage was in December 2023, three months before the local elections held on March 31.

At the time the minimum wage was set at 17,002 Turkish lira for 2024, a 49 percent increase from July 2023 and a 100 percent hike from January of the same year.

The minimum wage was equivalent to $578 in December and is now valued at $515.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek drew ire when he said during a TV program on Monday that the monthly minimum wage in the country is not low but rather is the highest among developing countries.

Take a second to support Stockholm Center for Freedom on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!