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Turkey’s new minimum wage improves slightly, yet remains one of the lowest in Europe

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Turkey’s Minister of Family, Labor and Social Security Zehra Zümrüt Selçuk has announced the official minimum monthly wage at TL 2,558 (€ 423) in 2019 – an amount that indicates a partial recovery of losses incurred during this year’s currency crisis while still ranking the country among the lowest in Europe, BBC Turkish service reported on Tuesday.

On Sept. 4, 2018, following a period of sharp depreciation of the Turkish lira, the minimum wage in Turkey had plummeted to an equivalent of € 225, 45 percent lower than it was in 2016.

By autumn Turkey’s minimum wage had even fallen behind such countries as Montenegro, Macedonia and Serbia. The announced increase for 2019 is forecast to push Turkey ahead of these countries once again, yet it will fail to surpass Eastern European countries such as Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary, whose minimum wages have historically been below Turkey’s.

Although Turkish citizens working minimum wage jobs have always earned much less than Western Europeans, their income stood above that of Slovak, Czech, Romanian and Lithuanian workers even after the currency shock that the lira incurred during the economic crisis of 2001.

In 2016 a minimum wage worker in Turkey earned 20 percent more than one in Poland. As of August 2018, however, Turkey’s minimum wage was 42 percent lower than that of Poland.

The Commission for Determining the Minimum Wage, which was tied to the Presidency last summer along with many other government bodies as part of the latest constitutional amendments, is criticized by experts and academics for taking sides with employers in disregard of workers’ demands.

Composed of five representatives from workers unions, employers and the government, the commission convenes at the end of every year to determine the increase to be applied to the minimum wage the next year.

Labor issue expert Dr. Aziz Çelik told BBC Turkish service that the government tried to convince employers to increase the minimum wage by offering them incentives in terms of taxes and insurance premiums. Çelik argued that the financing of these incentives would mainly rely on the budget or the unemployment insurance fund, which means laying the ultimate burden of the wage increases on the workers and the society.

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