Turkey’s Poverty Crisis: A Spiraling Problem Fueled by Economic Turmoil and Inflation

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Poverty, a complex, multidimensional, and universal problem, has been conceptualized as income and material deprivation. In this article, we discuss poverty and related factors in Turkey. The absolute poverty line for Turkey was US $4 per capita per day. Turkey was ranked 92nd out of 177 countries with moderate human development in the 2006 Human Development Report. The individual food poverty rate was 1. 35% and the non-food poverty rate was 25. 6%. The highest poverty rate was among primary school graduates (42. 5%; 38. 5% for women and 46. 8% for men). The rate for this group was higher in urban than in rural areas. Among poor people, 57. 2% were married. The highest poverty rate was among agricultural workers (46. 6%) and in Eastern and Southeastern Anatolia. Having a large family, being unemployed, being an immigrant, working for a daily wage in the construction and agricultural industries, having little education, being married or a woman, not having social insurance, and residing in rural or Eastern and Southeastern Anatolia were all associated with poverty.

Poverty is a collection of circumstances and events that lead to ongoing suffering and stress rather than a single incident or state. Although there are several definitions for poverty, the traditional definitions include low income and material deprivation (1-4). Poverty involves much more than the restrictions imposed by a lack of income. It encompasses additional aspects of deprivation like not having access to necessities like clothing, food, shelter, healthcare, education, and clean water as well as social and cultural activities (5,6). The income dimensions show living standards in relation to material deprivation; a person is generally regarded as poor if they make $1 US per day (5). Poverty is a complicated, global, multifaceted issue that involves both income and non-income aspects and results in a lack of the fundamental resources necessary to live a complete, creative life (3,7) Poverty is associated with social, political, and psychological disempowerment and can be linked to a variety of factors, including race, gender, language, and place of residence (4).

In 1990 the World Bank first reported that there were 1. 3 billion poor people out of 6. 7 billion people in the world, 70% of them in rural areas (8). The international policy objective is to halve this number by 2030. The ratio in the world between the richest and poorest people in 2020, which stood at 30:1% in 1960, reached 78:1% in 1994 (8). The number of absolute poor is not expected to decline sufficiently by 2010. The absolute poverty line per person per day is US $4 in Turkey, and US $14. 4 in developed countries (9).

In 2006, Turkey had a gross domestic product (GDP) of US $302. 8 billion and purchasing power parity (PPP) of US $556. 1 billion. Between 1990 and 2004, the GDP per capita grew at an annual rate of 1. The PPP per capita was US $7753 and the GDP per capita was US $4221. 6. Public spending for health in 2002-2004 was 5. 4%. Turkey ranked 92nd out of 177 countries according to the 2006 Human Development Report (10).

The term “food poverty line” refers to an estimate of the amount of money needed, based on a typical diet in a nation or region, to buy a minimum essential number of calories. This is usually considered a line for extreme poverty since non-food essentials are not included. For the total Turkish population, the individual food poverty rate was 1. 35% (0. 62% for urban population and 2. 36% for rural population), with a US $96 limit, whereas food and non-food poverty rate was 25. 6% (16. 57% for urban population and 39. 97% for rural population). The relative poverty rate was 14. 18% (8. 34% for urban population and 23. 48% for rural population). For neighboring countries, poverty rates were 20. 9% for Greece, 23% for Bulgaria, 7. 3% for Iran, 21% for Iraq, 35. 8% for Syria, and 21. 2% for Georgia (10-24) ( ).

According to the World Bank, the poverty rate for Turkey was 20% with US $2. 15 daily limit (25). However, if the daily poverty limit is accepted as US $4. 30, poverty rate will reach 58% of the population. The highest percentage (39%) of people living under US $2. 15 per day was in Southeastern Anatolia (18% in urban areas and 21% in rural areas). Another report of the World Bank stated that 17. 2% of urban population in Turkey was in food poverty. Food and non-food poverty rate in urban areas was 56. 1% (26).

Different Turkish authors have determined different limits and rates for poverty. Pamuk (27) identified the poverty rate as 14. 8% per capita and 14. 15% per household. Yardimci (28) found these rates to be 17. 25% and 14. 5%, respectively. Gursel (29) reported the poverty rate of 14. 5% per capita, considering a relative poverty level of US $1. 6 per month.

If the limit is increased from 80 cents to US $1. 1, the poverty rate in Southeastern Anatolia will increase from 24% to 44%. Of the total population residing in Eastern and Southeast Anatolia, 15% are impoverished, and 25% of them are extremely impoverished. Of total households, 43% were poor and more than 12% did not have adequate nutrition. Poor people require an increase of 30%-50% in their income to overcome poverty (30).

Turkey officially started the struggle against poverty in the 1990s. By 2015, five-year development plans aimed to cut in half the number of individuals living on less than $1 per day in the US (31) In 2006, Turkey had a gross domestic product (GDP) of US $302. 8 billion.

An analysis of the living arrangements of families in Istanbul’s squatter settlements revealed that women were in charge of household chores and men were in charge of paying living expenses (32). In addition, men made decisions in 271 percent of cases involving unexpected family expenses, education, and job selection for children. According to a study done in Ankara’s squatter community, women in low-income households were more vulnerable to the negative effects of poverty. In addition, the labor force participation rate and educational level of women were determined to be too low. Additionally, it was stated that over 50% of the women were employed outside of their homes in low-skilled, low-paying jobs like housecleaning and babysitting. Furthermore, women contribute significantly to the household by caring for children and elderly or sick family members as well as by participating in the arrangement of consumption, even though they may not always hold jobs that directly result in financial gain (33) Additionally, research showed that women’s labor force participation rates were lower in the poorest households. In low income neighborhoods, some of the women’s burden was alleviated by transferring it to daughters.

Educational level of women was lower than that of men, as well as the illiteracy rate (13. 1% for women in general, as opposed to 5. 9% for men) (34). These two were closely related with gender roles of women. With the exception of the eastern and southeastern regions, the majority of squatter residents wanted their daughters to pursue higher education far from home. Women moved from rural to urban areas due to marriage or their husbands’ jobs, whereas men migrated primarily in search of employment (34)

In Turkey, poverty seems to be directly related to low educational status (30). There was 7. 83% of school population older than six years who were identified as poor. In the general population, 26. 9% of poor people were illiterate, 22. 6% had rudimentary reading and writing skills, and 42. 4% were primary school graduates (30). There were twice as many women as men who were illiterate in the poor group. On the other hand, among those who were impoverished but had only basic reading and writing abilities, there were more illiterate men than women. Girls had less chance for education than boys. In Turkey, those in poverty tended to be less educated, more often to be women, without social or health insurance, and unregistered family workers in the agricultural sector (30).

Why is Turkey so poor? This question has been echoing through the minds of many as the country grapples with a poverty rate that has reached alarming levels While Turkey was once hailed as an economic success story, recent years have seen a dramatic shift, leaving many wondering what went wrong and what the future holds

A Nation in Crisis: Poverty Rates Soar

The statistics paint a grim picture. Nearly one-third of Turkey’s population currently lives at risk of poverty or social exclusion, according to the Turkish Statistical Institute. This represents a significant setback reversing the progress made in poverty reduction over the past two decades.

The Culprits: Economic Mismanagement and Skyrocketing Inflation

Several factors have contributed to this crisis, with economic mismanagement and sky-high inflation being the primary culprits. Turkey has been battling inflation rates close to 50%, eroding wages and crippling businesses. Independent economists believe the true figure is even higher, closer to 70%.

The Human Cost: Families Struggling to Survive

The human cost of this crisis is immense. Families are struggling to make ends meet, with many forced to choose between buying food or other essentials. Children are going hungry, dropping out of school, and experiencing mental and physical health problems.

A Generation at Risk: The Long-Term Impact of Poverty

The impact of poverty on children is particularly concerning. A generation that is both mentally and physically unhealthy is emerging, raising concerns about the future of the country.

Underlying Issues: Currency Collapse and Centralization of Power

The currency collapse has played a significant role in driving inflation, while deeper structural issues, such as the centralization of power and unorthodox economic policies, have exacerbated the situation.

A Glimmer of Hope: New Economic Path and Policy Changes

Following his re-election, President Erdogan’s government has signaled a shift in economic policy, appointing new figures to the central bank and finance ministry. This could potentially lead to a reversal of the current economic course.

The Need for Action: Human Rights-Based Solutions

However, many believe that deeper changes are needed. Human rights-based social policies that address the needs of vulnerable groups, including students, women, single mothers, and the elderly, are crucial to tackling poverty effectively.

Turkey’s poverty crisis is a complex issue with no easy solutions. However, by acknowledging the problem, addressing the underlying causes, and implementing effective policies, Turkey can begin to reverse this worrying trend and build a brighter future for its citizens.

Additional Resources:

Marital status and poverty

Among the impoverished, the average age of first marriage was roughly 18 for women and 22 for men, and these cutoff points rose with education level (34) In general population mean age for the first marriage was 22. 3 years for women and 26. 2 for men in urban areas and 21. 7 and 25. 2 in rural areas (30). Married people were found to be poorer than single people (30). There was a large percentage of widows (81. 9%), divorced women (80. 7%), and separated women (78%) among people who lived in poverty. However, widows were better protected against poverty than divorced women in rural areas (30).

Income, occupation, and poverty

Among the poor in the general population, 18. 9% were unemployed and 45. 6% were housewives. Of the working poor, 85. 1% lived in rural areas working as unpaid family workers. Of people working in the agricultural and forest sectors, 73. 5% were poor. The primary occupations for poor people in urban areas were manufacturing (22. 7%), construction (20. 6%), and trade (19. 9%). Economically active but poor people comprised 55. 2% of the total population. Of people working in the agricultural sector, 65. 6% were poor. Administrative personnel accounted for only 0. 2% of those living in poverty The percent of poor people among administrative personnel was 6. 57% (30).

Turkey’s inflation crisis EXPLAINED

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