Turks set to lose COVID-19 support

kurdish security forces
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gives a press conference after a cabinet meeting in Ankara, on March 29, 2021. (Photo: AFP)
ISTANBUL — When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Turkey last year, the government stepped in to support workers who lost their jobs.

At its peak, over 3 million people were receiving two-thirds of their lost salary under the so-called short labor pay scheme, and 1.3 million continue to do so.اضافة اعلان

But the scheme is now ending as President Tayyip Erdogan starts easing COVID-19 restrictions, and many people are worried about how they will make ends meet.

With a ban on layoffs remaining in place, employers say hundreds of thousands of workers will have to be put on unpaid leave because businesses are still struggling.

“I did not buy clothes for a year. We are focused on paying our bills and supporting our daughter’s education,” said Nuray, a chef who has taken out a loan to support her family and tried to make extra money by selling jewelery online.

Like others, she declined to allow her full name to be used in this article for fear of repercussions.

Without her current support, Nuray, 37, will be left with a daily income of just $5.67 under another government scheme.

“We will not be able to pay our bills with the unpaid leave support,” she said. The services sector has taken a huge hit from the pandemic. More than 700,000 people in tourism, restaurants, and hotels have lost work, said Pinar Kaynak of the Center for Social Policy Research at TOBB University of Economics and Technology.

The ban on layoffs has disguised the impact in terms of job losses, she said.

Official unemployment numbers fell to 12.2 percent in January, but Kaynak said there are some 2 million people who are categorized as employed but are currently not actively working, either on the short labor pay scheme or unpaid leave.

It could take up to two years for the services sector to return to previous employment levels even if all businesses reopened, Kaynak said.

“We could observe a spike in unemployment in July and August with the lifting of the layoff ban,” she said.

The government says it will also direct funds from the short labor payments to support employment, covering social security payments for some private sector employees and effectively decreasing personnel expenses.