Poverty in Turkey
With an increased Human Development Index (HDI) of 0.806 from 0.655 in the last decade, Turkey’s overall development has significantly increased, namely with a hike in life expectancy and education. While the execution of specific long-term policies (Development Programme for Women and Conditional Education Assistance) constantly addresses issues such as gender inequality and education, the refugee crisis and the disruption that COVID-19 has caused remain more pressing matters. Nevertheless, as all of these existing and new issues pile up, the initiative to alleviate poverty in Turkey has currently slowed down.

The Long-term Causes of Poverty in Turkey

  • Education: The proportion of poor people with limited or no education at all is significant. In fact, a study from 2007 indicated that 26.9% were illiterate, 22.6% had basic reading and writing skills and 42.4% were primary school graduates. These facts might suggest that a lack of education contributes to poverty due to the inability to work in higher-paying jobs. In order to encourage education, Turkey circulated free textbooks and transportation. Additionally, the FAITH project, which the Turkish government implemented, made education compulsory for all citizens for the initial 12 years. Along with the increase in the number of universities from 93 to 107 by 2013, the total gross enrollment increased to 81.6%. While the Turkish education system is still not able to compete with the European Union’s standards, it is definitely becoming more efficient.
  • Household Make-up: The mean household size tends to increase in poorer households, as nearly six out of 10 households have more than four members. Meanwhile, 45.6% of the poorest women in Turkey are housewives. As the number of people in households increases, the burden often falls on men to fulfill the basic needs of the entire family.
  • External Immigration and Refugees: Around 4.1 million immigrants from Iran, Iraq, Bosnia and Syria have strained Turkey’s resources. Legal immigrants receive access to education, health care and social security under Turkish legislation, namely the Law on Foreigners and International Protection and Temporary Protection Regulation. Furthermore, the demand for housing has driven up its price, pushing more and more people into poverty. Turkey has pledged nearly $35 billion to manage the flow of immigrants, which is inadequate because of the number of illegal immigrants also occupying Turkish territory. The rise in population, due to how drastic it is, has left more people confined to the poverty trap prevalent in the nation.

Turkey’s Measures to Reduce Poverty

The severity of poverty in Turkey has instigated the introduction and implementation of various policies such as the following:

  • The Country Partnership Framework (CPF): CPF is an agreement between Turkey and the World Bank with hopes of achieving growth, inclusion and sustainability under the 11th National Development Program. The General Assembly of Parliament of Turkey has implemented this as part of the 10th Development Plan.
  • The World Bank Group (WBG): The World Bank is partnering with the Facility for Refugees in Turkey (FRiT) to help reduce economic disruption due to the influx of refugees in Turkey by implementing programs with regard to education, employment and social support. For example, FriT, along with UNHCR, has pledged €23.929.195 to allow access to protection and services for refugees and asylum seekers in Turkey.

Trust Funds in Addition to FRiT

  • The Clean Technology Fund (CTF): CTF  has granted $390 million to support wind power and encourage the private sector to invest in renewable and efficient energy.
  • EU Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA): IPA funds are providing €3533 million to Turkey. The most important goal of IPA is to improve public administration and financial governance.
  • Global Environmental Facility (GEF): GEF funds are financing $387,138,238 to focus on environmental issues and the maintainance of biodiversity.

How COVID-19 Could Affect Turkey’s Ability to Address Poverty

The unexpected spread of COVID-19 has recently strained the world economy, including Turkey’s ability to implement and administer the necessary schemes to alleviate poverty. In fact, the bilateral trade between China and Turkey is as low as 1.1%. Coupled with the loss of tax collection from affected industries (including textiles and garments) and restricted travel abroad, this has led to an increase in national debt and left the private sector enduring heavy losses. Therefore, the government’s ability to address poverty has diminished.

Mridula Divakar
Photo: Flickr

facts about poverty in ankara
With a population of approximately 5.2 million people, Turkey’s capital city of Ankara is the nation’s second-largest city after Istanbul. Originally planned to hold only around 500,000 people, the urban center has continued to see a high rate of population growth. The city saw a population increase of 6.7 percent between 2014 and 2015 and an overall population increase of 290,000 since 2015.

As more people began moving into the city for job opportunities and a higher quality of life, housing became an issue, especially during the massive growth of the 1950s. The influx of inhabitants outpaced the construction of housing. This issue inevitably led to the building of illegal houses, public housing, compounds and eventually a higher rise in poverty. Here are the top 10 facts about poverty in Ankara.

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in Ankara

  1. After the population boom of the 1950s, 59 percent of the population of Ankara were living in ‘gecekondu,’ or slum houses, by the late 1960s.
  2. In the Central Anatolia region, where the city of Ankara sits, more than 32 percent of households live in poverty.
  3. More than 26 percent of individuals living in the region live under the poverty line.
  4. Women living in poor households were found to be the most exposed to the effects of poverty from a study conducted in the squatter areas of Ankara.
  5. In poorer neighborhoods, some of these women’s burden was alleviated by transferring it to their daughters.
  6. More than 10 percent of the region is illiterate.
  7. Ankara makes up for 8.63 percent of the national GDP.
  8. Ankara exports very little to Asia or Latin America even though they are the fastest-growing economies in the world.
  9. In 2014, Ankara was found as having the highest annual average equalized household disposable income.
  10. As Turkey continues to expose itself to an over-dependence on investors, Ankara has become a “hostage of its own image as an economically successful state with a stable socio-political system.” Should the country see any changes to this, it would cause capital to leave and an increase in the cost of external debt.

Investing in Ankara

In 2018, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan introduced a series of measures, including tax changes and an increase in the government’s Credit Guarantee Fund, which backs loans to smaller businesses. Erdogan is a self-described “enemy of interest rates” and wants the central bank to lower interest rates. He has commented that he plans to take greater control of the economy to increase and speed up growth.

As Ankara, and Turkey overall, debates and continue to look for solutions to alleviate poverty and grow its economy, one such idea remains at the forefront. During Erdogan’s 2014 presidential campaign, he announced Turkey’s 2023 vision.

Vision For Progress

Called “one of the most important economic project[s] going on in this century,” this plan focuses on six main points. Through concentrated efforts on economics, health care, tourism, transportation, energy and foreign policy, Turkey aims to remake its economic “face” by the 100-year anniversary of the founding of the Turkish republic.

These top 10 facts about poverty in Ankara are being assessed and alleviated through this very ambitious vision. This project will not only help lift the Turkish people but will also greatly benefit the Arab world.

Increases in the volume of trade between Turkey and other Arab nations, specifically Saudi Arabia and Gulf countries, will ease relations between the Turks and Saudis, which could lead to an alliance. Addressing these facts about poverty in Ankara may be the answer alleviating regional tensions.

– Aaron Stein
Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in TurkeyPoverty in Turkey? Despite seeing rapid growth and development as a nation, Turkey continues to face a recurring problem with poverty amongst its citizens. Though the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) has nearly tripled in the past ten years, according to the United Nations’ Human Development Report, many of Turkey’s citizens are not seeing this growth and are caught by the causes of poverty in Turkey.

The Daily Sabah, a Turkish newspaper based in Istanbul, reported in May that the monthly poverty threshold increased by nearly 500 Turkish liras to reach just shy of 5,000 liras (or $1,400). This threshold delineates the monthly expenses of a family of four. If their household income falls below the threshold they will be unable to afford housing, clothes, food, heat, electricity or other utilities.


Poverty in Turkey Data


Data released by the Turkish Statistical Institute indicates that the severe material deprivation rate – a statistic similar to the monthly poverty threshold that tracks families’ abilities to afford at least several basic material essentials such as food and heating – increased from 29.4 percent in 2014 to 30.3 percent in 2015 (the last two years with available studies).

The causes of poverty in Turkey, as an opinion piece by Turkish novelist Kaya Genc claims, lay partly on the shoulders of Turkey’s track record of huge income inequality. Genc notes that the top 20 percent of Turkish families hold over 45 percent of the country’s GDP, while the bottom 20 percent have just over six percent of the GDP.

The Rural Poverty Portal notes that, in 2014, the majority of people in poverty in Turkey lived in rural areas, where the rate was over 35 percent below the poverty threshold to merely 22 percent in urban areas. This rural-urban inequality stems from several factors:

  • Average rural family size is nearly double that of urban families.
  • Environmental issues like climate change, soil erosion and continued issues with overgrazing livestock – all of which greatly affect agriculture, which is the livelihood of the vast majority of rural families.
  • Low literacy rates and limited education
  • A continued lack of welfare and social security for the rural poor.

Genc theorizes that this inequality can likely trace its roots back to longstanding negative attitudes of Turkey’s poor, both rural and urban, by its upper classes. Genc writes: “For decades, Turkey’s poor were characterized as backward, conservative, religious-minded people who represented the worst of the society.” Despite the country’s wealth increasing overall, Turkey’s wealth inequalities must be addressed to get at the root causes of poverty in Turkey.

Erik Halberg

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Turkey
Despite having one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, Turkey needs to address its poverty problems. Recent data shows that child poverty in Turkey is spinning out of control, especially among rural populations. Located where Western Asia meets Southeast Europe, Turkey has a population of over 80 million people, with about 30 percent of the population under the age of 18. Many of these children lack basic necessities, such as education and medical care.

According to a recent report, two out of every three children are affected by child poverty in Turkey. This data is based on the European Union standards of living, which evaluates the material deprivation of the average household. The report explains that when making international comparisons, child poverty in Turkey is extremely severe and persistent. UNICEF builds on this by stating that as poverty continues to grow out of control, more Turkish children are threatened by the poverty threshold.

Rural populations are significantly further behind compared to the urban population in terms of education and wages. In rural areas, many schools lack teachers, which forces schools to accommodate as many as 100 students per classroom. These large classrooms lead to poor educational outcomes. Additionally, thousands of young girls in Turkey are out of school or denied education. This lack of education leads to poor wages and job opportunities, with some families resorting to child labor or child marriage in order to make ends meet.

Children are often times denied proper healthcare. According to UNICEF, immunization rates for childhood diseases are in need of improvement, especially in rural areas. There is also roughly 2,000 children with HIV/AIDS, with UNICEF believing the numbers are likely higher.

Steps are being made to address child poverty in Turkey. The Turkish government has made ongoing efforts to improve medical care for children, educational opportunities for girls and prenatal care for mothers. Additionally, UNICEF has partnered with Procter & Gamble and has helped educate 250,000 mothers about better parenting.

Experts state that it is absolutely crucial that Turkey addresses these impoverished living conditions since child poverty is one of the root causes of poverty in adulthood. One expert named Didem Gürses writes that “in order to break the generational cycle, poverty reduction must begin in childhood.”

Child poverty in Turkey must be addressed if Turkey wishes to end poverty and have a successful future.

Morgan Leahy

Photo: Flickr