Poverty in Turkey

This week’s sustainable development goal was “No Poverty”. We have published a detailed article about what are goals exactly, how to reach these goals, and statistical analysis. In this article, we will mention how and why it is applied in Turkey. I want to start by mentioning the exact goals that are aimed to be accomplished by 2030 under this more general title. By 2030, implementation of nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all; insurance of all men and women, especially the poor and the vulnerable, having equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to basic services, ownership, inheritance, natural resources, appropriate new technologies, and financial services; resilience of the poor and vulnerable to climate-related extreme occurrences and other economic or social disasters; and support for the investments in poverty eradication actions are aimed. 

For the past years, Turkey has been one of the countries that have faced poverty the most. Economic and social problems including the loss of value of Turkish Lira (TL) or the substantial increase in the population caused the income per month for each person to decrease gradually. These are some long-term consequences of the increased Human Development Index which Turkey has shown an increase of 0.151 in the last decade. Respectively to the increase in this index, an increase in living standards is expected. However, due to some internal and external factors such as education standards, external immigrations, and household make-up Turkey has been facing difficulties along the road of coping. The lack of education in Turkey contributes to the poverty in Turkey due to the inability to work it creates, especially for higher-paid jobs. Even though the literacy rate has been increasing gradually since the 2000s, it is common knowledge that the education system sometimes fails to examine the exact skills that are needed for a being to succeed later in career life. As higher-level education and some specific skills are needed for high-salary jobs, most adults in Turkey have difficulty having stable living conditions and standards. Besides the profound problem of education, immigrants from Iran, Iraq, and Syria have been a burden both for the government and the citizens of Turkey. Turkey has been willing to help the legal immigrants, but the actual problem causers are the illegals. 35 billion dollars have been saved from the government budget to help the legal immigrants with their education, healthcare, and social security. However, due to the increased number of illegal immigrants, Turkey has been ineffective to manage the flow of immigrants. As a result of the increased population, more people were confined to the poverty trap. One of the other factors that contributed to the increasing poverty rate in Turkey is the household sizes, and this is highly related to immigration and education as well. According to the Bahçeşehir University Center for Economics and Social Research (BETAM), the highest rate of children living in extreme poverty in Turkey are mostly in the southeastern region, with 55.4%, and least, but again high, in Western Anatolia Region with 23.6%. The Institute explains that two main reasons for that are the median incomes which occur due to lack of education and the large household size. Also, as Southeastern Anatolia has borders with the immigrant countries, the poverty rates are affected abysmally there. It is clear that there is not a single reason, but even one can change the living standard of many people. Even if sometimes poverty and its causes are just a cycle causing each other, the primary goal should be to eliminate poverty as much as possible. The rest is all downhill from here.

Sharing some statistics from some research made in the past years will demonstrate your understanding of the serious level of poverty problem has reached in Turkey. As you will see, the rates are really low or high, based on category, and these areas are one’s essential life needs:

  • In 2014, 51.3% of households were not able to pay their rents or bills on time;
  • In 2016, 70.7% of families were unable to take a one-week annual holiday;
  • In 2016, 40.8% of children were unable to meet their protein needs from meat, chicken, or fish;
  • In 2016, 48.4% of children lived in households that did not own a car;
  • Between 2015-2016, the percent of families who could not afford adequate house warming increased from 20% to 28.1%;

These are just a few of the statistics, but there are some more in Figure 1.2. Also, the research articles will be cited below and you can go and read some further information. 

Poverty is a critical problem for a well-developed country, and without any precautions for the future, the poverty rate will gradually increase even more. However, the Turkish government, with the help of many well-developed NGOs, has emphasized its commitment to the “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” created by the United Nations since 2015. Since then Turkey has become one of the countries that made considerable progress in eradicating poverty. According to the United Nations’ publication of “Turkey’s Sustainable Development Goals” in 2019, a series of legal and institutional regulations were issued between 2000 and 2018 in Turkey which demonstrated the keen need and interest to eradicate poverty. Some of these were the consolidation of social security institutions and the provision of health insurance to the whole population. Most of these regulations were aimed at reducing poverty with the help of services and assistance offered to the citizens. 

Since 2016, a significant improvement was achieved in reducing the rate of poverty. Here is a Figure showing the poverty gap by equivalised household disposable income. This actively demonstrates that through the actions towards achieving macroeconomic stability, economic growth, and the increase in social transfer, the rate of poverty reduction has increased gradually. Under this title, an analysis of the empowerment of vulnerable groups has also been made, and in this context an amendment to the Labour Law in 2016, allowed working men or women to work part-time following the end of statutory leave until the start of next month. Furthermore, part-time work was allowed for the 60 to 360 days following the birth for women and it was decided to make payments from the Unemployment Insurance Fund for the non-work time during the part-time work. Many more changes in the employment area have been made such as the increasing rate of employment of the disabled. 

All the changes that we have covered above have just begun to show their impacts, but there is still a lot to accomplish. The United Nations states that programs that will improve the social policy of developers and implementers should be conducted and new types of social security services should be developed. From a 2021 perspective, the central government should be more eager and avid to make some changes in the following years. As citizens, we are all ready to serve our country on good terms.



“Sustainable Development Goals: UNDP in Europe and Central Asia.” UNDP, http://www.eurasia.undp.org/content/rbec/en/home/sustainable-development-goals.html.

“Goal 1: No Poverty: UNDP in Europe and Central Asia.” UNDP, http://www.eurasia.undp.org/content/rbec/en/home/sustainable-development-goals/goal-1-no-poverty.html.

“38 Percent of Children Live in Extreme Poverty across Turkey: Research – Turkey News.” Hürriyet Daily News, 2018, http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/38-percent-of-children-live-in-extreme-poverty-across-turkey-research-130748.

Divokar, Mridula, et al. “Poverty in Turkey.” The Borgen Project, Amy Https://Borgenproject.org/Wp-Content/Uploads/The_Borgen_Project_Logo_small.Jpg, 22 Apr. 2020, borgenproject.org/tag/poverty-in-turkey/.


Roser, Max, and Esteban Ortiz-Ospina. “Global Extreme Poverty.” Our World in Data, 25 May 2013, ourworldindata.org/extreme-poverty.

“Statistics on Underprivileged Children in the World.” ChildFund, 2013, http://www.childfund.org/Content/NewsDetail/2147489206/.

[Author removed at request of original publisher]. “2.4 The Consequences of Poverty.” Social Problems, University of Minnesota Libraries Publishing Edition, 2015. This Edition Adapted from a Work Originally Produced in 2010 by a Publisher Who Has Requested That It Not Receive Attribution., 25 Mar. 2016, open.lib.umn.edu/socialproblems/chapter/2-4-the-consequences-of-poverty/.

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