A recent report by Ayşe Buğra and Çağlar Keyder from Boğaziçi University in Istanbul shows that— in comparison to old and new European Union member states—poverty in Turkey remains high. Relative poverty, measured by less than 60 percent of the median income, hovers around 23 percent in Turkey. The country’s gini coefficient of .46 stands well above European average and is closer to the world’s most unequal societies, like Mexico or Brazil.
Turkey’s candidacy for membership in the European Union appears to have multiple, and often contradictory effects on poverty in this country. One the one hand, reform attempts to revamp Turkey’s development strategies (with an eye on EU membership conditions) undermine traditional welfare regimes and aggravate poverty. For instance, state removal from its agricultural subsidy programs has probably enhanced inequality in the countryside and rural to urban migration, while other economic reforms have significantly reduced employment opportunities in the formal manufacturing sectors. At the same time, Turkey’s EU candidacy has induced changes in social policy discourse and practice. Turkish officials have drawn on EU-based models of social provision and incorporated a rights-based approach to social inclusion into new social assistance schemes.