Contrary to the rosy picture of Turkey's economic development that is put forward by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a recent analysis argues that the country is suffering from a serious problem with poverty.
An editorial analysis published on the blogging site Econoscale.com this week argues that nearly 20 percent of the Turkish population lives at or below the poverty line as defined by official household income statistics. Citing the Turkish Statistics Institute's (TurkStat) figures and definition of the poverty line, the analysis claims that more than 70 percent of Turkish households live on less than $1,000 a month. It also claims that over 30 percent live on less than $500 a month, emphasizing that this means an entire household surviving on less than $16 per day. The monthly minimum wage in Turkey currently stands at $383.5.
The figures also appear to contradict Erdoğan's boasts about the creation of a “wealthy middle class.” The emergence of a new middle-income demographic in Turkey during the past decade of Erdoğan's administration is a reality; however, the Econoscale analysis suggests that the middle class have seen a rise in income but at the same time have been borrowing more than ever, leading to high levels of debt.
The analysis says that only 10 percent of households earn above $34,000 per year. Describing this reality as “the middle class illusion,” the analysis says: “There is an illusion of a middle class thanks to a modest rise in incomes but -- more importantly – there is a significant increase in debt.” It is beyond doubt that incomes have risen in the past decade but this rise has not been equally distributed, the analysis argues. “A majority of the population have seen only modest gains in incomes -- around 40 percent over a period of 10 years. That's about 4 percent each year. This is nothing to celebrate, given where Turkey stands today and not enough to create a middle class.”
Mentioning that Erdoğan frequently uses the term “income inequality,” the report says this kind of populist language “masks everything” and is used to try to “make Turkey look like a high middle income economy.”
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