Turkey’s hunger threshold exceeds minimum wage

Turkey’s hunger threshold for the month of April increased to TL 17,725 ($546), exceeding the minimum wage of TL 17,002, according to a study by the Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions (TÜRK-İŞ).

The hunger threshold increased to TL 17,725 from TL 16,763 for a family of four, while the poverty line was TL 57,736 ($1,778), more than three times the minimum wage, for the same average household. The study showed that food prices went up 5.55 percent in April compared to the previous month and 74.88 percent over the same month last year.

The study defines the hunger threshold 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, while the poverty line includes other expenses such as clothing, housing (rent and utilities), transportation, education and healthcare.

“The increase in the price of basic goods and services negatively impacts [people’s] finances,” the labor union said. “The purchasing power of wages continues to go down every month.”

TÜRK-İŞ also reported that the increase in food prices intensified following local elections in March, after which many essential food items saw significant price hikes. This surge in costs is part of a broader trend observed since the beginning of the year, with the additional financial burden on households from food expenditures amounting to 3,293.31 lira in the first four months alone.

The current minimum wage of 17,002 was announced in late December by the Ministry of Labor and Social Security. However, within four months, this figure is now below the hunger threshold.

Turkey is known for its relatively high percentage of the workforce making the minimum wage. Labor unions estimated that roughly half of workers earn a wage similar to the minimum wage.

The country also has a sizable informal sector, with many people working jobs unofficially.

Psychiatrists say a worsening economic crisis and unemployment have resulted in an increase in mental health problems among the Turkish population.

According to Dr. Burhanettin Kaya, mental health problems have increased, especially among the young, and each year the number of suicides in Turkey is higher than the previous year. Furthermore, the use of anti-depressants has increased by 75 percent in the last decade.

Increasing poverty has led to an increase in suicides among the most vulnerable of society, such as students and former public servants who were dismissed by emergency decrees in a government purge following a July 15, 2016 coup attempt. The public servants who were fired were also blacklisted on the country’s social security database, which is accessible by all potential private sector employers, making it impossible to find work in other sectors and leading to financial problems and poverty. 

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