Wages in context: Turkey

Date: 01/05/2015

Turkey Hi-ResThe country context has a great deal of influence on the wage situation in any given factory. We sat down with FWF’s Associate Director Margreet Vrieling, to get a better sense of the wage situation in Turkey.

Q: In Turkey, it is customary for the employer to provide lunch (or another meal) and other fringe benefits to workers. How does this factor into discussions about living wages? 

A: Turkish stakeholders have long engaged in discussions about cost of living [COL] and comparative wage measurements. In such discussions, the total value of fringe benefits is added to the total wages received to identify the total income. This is measured against COL. (We can use the wage ladder to chart total income against living wage and COL measurements.)

In this context, though, it is important to note that total wages received are often the sum of the legal minimum wage plus an off-the-books cash payment for any pay received above that amount. Off-the-book payments enable both the employer and employee to reduce tax payments. But this also means workers are eligible for less unemployment and pension in the future. From a verification perspective, this raises some thorny questions…

Q: Can you give a sense of how wages in Turkey’s garment industry currently stack up relative to other garment-producing countries?

Turkey’s legal minimum and overtime wages are some of the highest in garment producing countries, due in part to Turkey’s relatively high cost of living. Many unregistered garment workers are not paid legal wages, however.

Q: What is one important impediment to movement towards payment of a living wage in Turkey?

I’d say the biggest impediment in Turkey is weak social dialogue linked to Turkey’s trade union law. In order for collective bargaining to begin, the law requires that a trade union represent 50% of the workforce plus 1. And to join a trade union, workers must register officially at a government office. This really undermines a space for healthy industrial relations in enterprises and across society, which in turn makes systemic improvements on wages extremely difficult. Our training efforts for social dialogue in Turkey seek to contribute in a small way to improvements in this regard.

Adapted from FWF’s Climbing the Ladder to Living Wages report (2012)

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