Minimum wage in Turkey: Poverty rises among working people amid pandemic

A survey has revealed that Turkey's working class has become further impoverished amid the coronavirus pandemic while the debates on the minimum wage continue in the country.
Tuesday, 08 December 2020 11:15

A survey on the Reality of the Minimum Wage in the Days of the Pandemic conducted by the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (DİSK) once again revealed the great impoverishment of the working class. 

While a dire picture appears in all respects, it is becoming controversial whether the right to the minimum wage is an achievement of the workers or an excuse used to keep wages at the limit that all registered and unregistered workers "do not die".

Some striking findings from the report:

Most people in Turkey have to work on minimum wage

While millions of workers are forced to the minimum wage in Turkey, some millions of them are forced to work unofficially as they are even deprived of the minimum wage. 

The minimum wage concerns the majority of the workers. The minimum wage is gradually becoming the average wage while the average wage falls to the level of the minimum wage.

There are millions of workers working below minimum wage

3.3 million workers (17 percent of all employees) work at a wage below the minimum wage. The number of workers working for less than half the minimum wage is close to 1 million. The number of workers who have to live with the minimum wage or less is around 7.5 million (38.3 percent of all employees).

10 million employees are working around minimum wage

The number of workers earning 20 percent more or less than the minimum wage is 9.7 million. Almost 50 percent of all employees are in this scope. 64 percent of all employees (12.5 million workers) earn between six and one and a half times the minimum wage.

Pandemic has lowered wages and increased number of workers working around minimum wage

With the Covid-19 outbreak, significant losses were experienced in wages and the number of people earning income below the minimum wage increased. Those who are taken on compulsory unpaid leave with an allowance of 1,168 Turkish Lira ($149.62) are forced to live with an income equal to half the minimum wage. 

With the pandemic, it is possible to say that the number of those who have to live with an income below the minimum wage has increased, considering those who were forced to work below the minimum wage with short-time work allowance and unpaid leave allowance, and unregistered workers who lost their jobs.

The situation in private sector is even worse

21.7 percent of private-sector workers are paid below the minimum wage. The rate of those working in the private sector with minimum wage and below is 49 percent and the rate of those working around the minimum wage is 62 percent. Close to 9.5 million private-sector workers work at 20 percent or less of the minimum wage.

Women face deeper minimum wage discrimination

While the rate of those who cannot reach the minimum wage is generally 17 percent, this rate exceeds 25 percent for women. While the rate of those receiving minimum wage and lower-wage is 38 percent in general, it rises to 49 percent for women. Half of the women work for the minimum wage and lower wages.

Women working in private sector experience a much deeper pay gap

In the private sector, 32.5 percent of female workers are employed with wages below the minimum wage. 9.3 percent of female workers in the private sector are forced to work at less than half the minimum wage. In the private sector, the rate of female workers who have to work between well below the minimum wage and 20 percent more than the minimum wage rises to 76 percent.

Minimum wage becomes average wage

Average wages fall back to the minimum wage level. While the average monthly wage and salary income were approximately twice the minimum wage in 2006, it fell to 1.41 percent of the minimum wage in 2019.

The minimum wage decreased by more than 40 percent compared to national income per capita

The minimum wage, which was 3.4 percent above the per capita national income in 1978, fell 40 percent below the per capita national income in the past 42 years. If the minimum wage increased in parallel with he per capita income, the gross minimum wage should have been 4.995 TL ($639,82), not 2.943 TL ($377) in 2020.

Turkey is among lowest minimum wages in European countries and countries

In 2010, while 12 countries had the lowest minimum wage in Europe from Turkey, this number has dropped to three in 2020. countries with a lower minimum wage from Turkey, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Albania. However, in November 2020, and considering the current exchange rate of the minimum wage in Turkey in December, except for Albania it is clear that the lowest minimum wage in Europe.

Minimum wage worker works for taxes 122 days a year

When we consider the indirect and direct taxes and deductions of the gross minimum wage, 33.4 percent (983 TL) goes to taxes and deductions. Only 66.6 percent of the gross minimum wage (including the Minimum Living Allowance-AGI) is received by the worker as net disposable income. The worker works 122 days out of 365 days for taxes and deductions.

Tax of minimum wage increases

The amount of tax collected from minimum wage workers was increased by keeping the first tax bracket tariff low. In 2002 and 2003, the first tax bracket tariff was 15-16 times the minimum wage. Under the AKP rule, the tax bracket tariffs were increased less than the minimum wage and inflation. Thus, in 2020, the first tax bracket fell to 7.5 times the minimum wage.

Minimum wage melted against dollar

The minimum wage in US dollars rose to $430 in 2016. Then, due to economic and political instability, the minimum wage started to decline in dollar terms. According to the average exchange rates of January-November 2020, the minimum wage decreased to $336. According to the current exchange rates, it fell below $300.