At least 700,000 more people plunged into poverty and the income gap widened in Turkey last year as the coronavirus pandemic aggravated the economic turmoil plaguing the country since 2018, official data show.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan may brag of continued economic growth despite the pandemic, but the Turkish Statistical Institute’s annual survey on income and living conditions, released June 15, lays bare how economic inequality and poverty deepened in the country last year.

A significant factor behind the widening gaps is Ankara’s failure to fulfil its constitutional duty on social justice during the pandemic, which dealt severe blows to low- and lower-middle-income groups at a time when Turkey’s own economic crisis had already fueled unemployment and inflation. While many governments stepped up social spending at the expense of larger budget deficits and borrowing, Erdogan’s government offered little support to the worst-hit segments of Turkish society, contributing to deepening poverty.

According to the survey, Turkey’s Gini coefficient, a statistical measure used to gauge economic inequality, worsened by 0.015 points to 0.41 in 2020 — a level comparable to those of Brazil, Mexico and South Africa. The coefficient ranges from 0 to 1, with 0 representing perfect equality and 1 representing perfect inequality.

The ratio of the income of the richest 20% of the population to that of the poorest 20% increased to 8 in 2020 from 7.4 the previous year. The richest 20% received 47.5% of the total income, while the poorest quintile got only about 6%.

Written by Mustafa Sönmez