The Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions reported that the hunger threshold – which refers to the minimum amount that a family of four must spend to feed itself – is now higher than the minimum wage. Children are the most affected by poverty, according to analysts.
Three months late on rent.
Water and electricity cuts.
The landlord bangs on the door.
This is the terrible situation in which a family with three small children, including a four-month-old baby, finds themselves in Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey.
“My son has epilepsy. He has been in the hospital for two weeks,” the father of the family, who wishes to remain anonymous, told Euronews. “I am also very bad, and my closet is empty.”
“I feel so victimized. I don’t know what to say. I have 100 liras (3.4 euros) in my pocket; should I buy diapers? Milk formula? Or do I buy cooking oil?” he added, alluding to an impossible choice. between buying food or other necessities.
But this struggling family isn’t the only one in this situation.
Almost a third of the Turkish population is currently at risk of poverty or social exclusion, according to a recent report published by the Turkish Statistical Institute.
This worrying trend threatens to reverse the important gains made by the country in the fight against poverty since the early 2000s; in what was evidenced as a rapid growth of the Turkish economy, generated in the last two decades.
“I’ve been working on poverty for 22 years, but I’ve never seen a situation this bad,” he says. Make Foggocoordinator of the Office of Solidarity with Poverty of the Popular Republican Party.
Hacer Foggo lists the worrying symptoms of how this crisis is affecting ordinary Turks: women unable to afford sanitary products, rising obesity as families turn to cheaper, lower-quality food, students dropping out college… and the list goes on.
“People cannot meet their basic needs,” Foggo told Euronews. “This in turn causes anxiety, depression and isolates families.”
And these difficult times are taking their toll.
Turkish medical professionals have sounded the alarm over the rise in mental illness, pointing to a “serious increase” in the use of psychiatric drugs.
Meanwhile, two-thirds of respondents to a 2022 survey by the Yöneylem Center for Social Research said they were depressed due to financial hardship.
no money to eat
A large section of Turkish society is experiencing difficulties at present; but children are the most affected by poverty, according to Foggo.
Some go to school hungry or drop out altogether to work and bring money to the home.
“A mentally and psychologically ill generation is coming,” he warned.
About a third of Turkey’s children live in poor households and suffer some form of material deprivation, according to data cited by UNICEF in 2020.
Serious economic problems are behind what is happening in the country.
Turkey has suffered from exorbitant inflation for years, with prices almost 50% higher in July compared to the previous year, according to official data published at the beginning of the month.
However, independent economists at the Inflation Research Group say the true figure is much higher, at around 70%.
“Once I get money, I’m left with nothing,” the Istanbul father of three told Euronews, saying that after paying rent and bills, he is left with nothing.
“I don’t eat. Sometimes I ignore a bill at the grocery store,” he added.
The man points out that the 1,550 lira (52 euros) he receives in state aid does not even cover his family’s food bill, which he estimated at nearly 2,500 lira (84 euros) a month.
Last week, the Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions (Türk-İş) reported that the hunger threshold – which refers to the minimum amount a family of four must spend to feed itself – is now higher than the minimum wage.
And that despite the fact that the Government raised the minimum wage by 34% in July.
Many countries around the world have been plagued by inflation, fueled by the Ukraine war and climate change, but some factors are unique to Turkey.
The currency collapse has helped drive one of the highest inflation rates in Europe, eroding wages and hitting local businesses. However, deeper structural problems are also at stake.
In September 2021, one US dollar was worth around 8 Turkish lira, while in July 2023 it was worth 27 lira.
Behind this there is something else.
Speaking to Euronews last fall, Timothy Ashan emerging markets expert at BlueBay Asset Management, said economic mismanagement by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) has fueled inflation and sent the lira plummeting.
He blamed Erdogan’s decision not to lower interest rates, which could have cooled inflation, on his “unorthodox” approach to monetary policy, Islamic beliefs about usury and how many of his political allies benefit from rates for land.
According to Ash, the centralization of power is at the heart of this problem, and the Turkish president has been widely accused of taking an authoritarian turn.
“Erdogan blames everyone else,” he told Euronews. “He has a team of people around him who are men who say yes, don’t tell the truth to power. It’s like the emperor’s new clothes.”
Following his re-election in May, Erdogan’s government has been forging a new economic path, having signaled it is willing to backtrack on its unconventional policies, appointing new figures to the central bank and finance ministry.
However, the fall of the lira continues.
For Foggo, an official with the Poverty Solidarity Office of the Republican People’s Party, many of Turkey’s poverty problems are not new, and she says that the authorities have not acted for years.
“All these (problems) are actually alarming things of the past. This shows that no action has actually been taken,” he told Euronews, calling for a solution based on human rights.
“We need a rights-based social policy that includes students, women, single mothers, the disabled, the elderly, children and all people living in poverty, according to their needs,” he adds.
“As poverty deepens and prolongs, its effects only get worse,” he concludes.
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