An estimated 34 percent of the Turkish population received public assistance in the last year, a number that is expected to increase as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the economy, Deutsche Welle Turkish service reported on Tuesday.
The data were provided by academic Erdem Yörük based on a survey he conducted in partnership with the KONDA polling company.
The report said the percentage might be much higher considering non-public social assistance.
Turkish authorities do not release detailed data as to the number of people who benefit from public assistance. According to activity reports by the Ministry of Family, Labor and Social Services, TL 43 billion ($6.3 billion) was spent for some 3.5 million households in 2018. Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat) data indicate that the average Turkish household comprises 3.35 people.
The proportion of public assistance to GDP has been on an upward trend since the 1980s, going above 10 percent in the 2000s. Yörük argued that the increase was primarily the result of income level replacing employment status as the main criterion.
“As a consequence of demographic and economic transformation, the poor have become one of the most critical social groups in Turkey,” Yörük told DW, adding that social welfare policies were key to the political success of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic public assistance has become a central topic of discussion in the country. While the government announced the Economic Stability Shield project worth TL 100 billion ($14.7 billion), it was found inadequate by those who criticized its failure to directly support individuals and small businesses.
Some 850,000 contributors donated nearly TL 2 billion ($295 million) to the government’s nationwide fundraiser.
The interior ministry prevented major opposition-held municipalities from launching their own donation campaigns and blocked bank accounts in which millions of lira had already been received.