The number of people in Turkey who are officially recognized as living in poverty rose to 17,921,000 in 2020, a 714,000 increase over 2019, according to a recent report from the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat), Bold Medya reported.
According to the report, titled “Income and Living Conditions Survey Regional Results, 2020,” 2,941,000 poverty-stricken people live in İstanbul, 1,087,000 in Ankara and 875,000 in İzmir.
TurkStat considers individuals who earn less than TL 14,873 annually or TL 1,166 monthly to be living in poverty.
Turkey has seen an increase of 2 million in the number of people considered “poor” over the last four years.
The number of people living in poverty has long been a source of contention between the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the opposition parties.
The already deteriorating economy, where double-digit inflation and a slump in the lira’s value are affecting the standard of living, has worsened due to the COVID-19 pandemic and measures imposed to contain the spread of the virus, putting many people into poverty.
Members of the opposition and critics have repeatedly argued that the worsening economic conditions in the country have triggered suicides.
A report drafted by Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Tekin Bingöl in late May revealed that 150 people had died by suicide in Turkey due to financial problems in the first five months of 2021, which corresponds to a quarter of the total number of suicides since the beginning of the year.
According to a survey conducted in May by MetroPOLL, 26.6 percent of Turks say they can’t meet their basic living costs, while 54 percent state that they barely do.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had claimed that there were no poor people in the country, urging the opposition to “feed the hungry if there are any.”
“If they can eat dry bread, then they are not hungry,” AKP deputy Şahin Tin had once said during a parliamentary debate.
Mustafa Gültak, a district mayor from the AKP in Mersin had said earlier this month, while talking about a recent suicide allegedly related to poverty, that if suicides in Turkey were actually poverty-related, half the country’s citizens would have taken their own lives.