Many have called for the Turkish government to spend more of the national budget on social aid as poverty rates in Turkey are over the average for countries in the European Union. Current spending on social aid policies is a paltry 1 percent of Turkey’s budget. But in addition to establishing policies that help the impoverished, some are also questioning whether Turkey is doing enough to diminish the extreme income inequality.
Even though it has maintained a 5 percent annual growth and is experiencing rising employment, Turkey has one of the highest income inequality rates among the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries. This income inequality is largely due to educational problems. The poverty rate for the illiterate in Turkey was 30 percent in 2009, compared to the only .7 percent for those who graduated from a university. As a result, the many agricultural laborers are stricken with poverty. The reason for this is that the agricultural industry in Turkey accounts for 9 percent of its GDP, but is around 25 percent of overall employment.
The overall education levels need to improve in Turkey with the help of more social aid spending, but, most urgently, educational rates for girls also need to rise. The literacy rate of men is much higher than that of women, causing more women to face the risk of living in poverty.
Even though the country has gone through many phases of immigration, urbanization, population rises, and changes in family structure, the social services and aid policies have not been properly reformed to address changes adequately. The institution in charge of social spending, the Family and Social Policies Ministry, has not allocated more than 1.2 percent of the GDP on policies that combat income inequality and poverty. Many are calling for a change, the Turkish government needs to make more of an effort to engage in social intervention.
But social aid policies are of no use if not managed properly. Turkey should to transfer policy implementation to local authorities instead of the current system of having social aid policy centrally controlled. If funds are managed by individual provinces, funding and resources can be more efficiently utilized, and efficaciously target poverty and income inequality within the region.
Over the last few years, Turkey has experienced significant growth, however more than a quarter children in the country still live in poverty. Even though the total percentage rate of poverty has dropped around 8 points, the fact is that still a fifth of the population is impoverished. Turkey has been investing in sustainable technology and building urban centers, but, to fully prosper, it will have to do more than flash signs of wealth and development. A budget reform in Turkey to reallocate more resources to boosting education and employment will decrease poverty and bridge the income inequality gap in the country.
– Rahul Shah