Local Turkiye

Turkey may do more to protect labor market amid COVID-19

Some regulations adapted to remote working styles, while helping new job creation, says head of parliament’s labor commission

Turkey has taken a host of steps to protect both workers and businesses from the long-term economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic and may do more if further needs emerge, the chair of parliament’s Health, Family, Labor and Social Affairs Commission told Anadolu Agency.

While taking measures to protect public health amid the pandemic, Turkey launched a social assistance program in March 2020 to minimize the fallout of the virus on the labor market, Recep Akdag said ahead of Saturday’s May Day holiday, which honors workers nationwide.

In the months that followed, the country expanded the framework of the program in line with subsequent developments.

The support provided so far by Turkey’s Social Protection Shield program to cater to public needs during the pandemic has topped 60 billion Turkish liras ($8.1 billion), he said.

The aid includes short-time work allowances, unpaid leave cash support, unemployment benefits, and normalization support.

More than 30 billion Turkish liras ($4.05 billion) were paid to 3.7 million people under the short-time work allowance, Akdag stressed, adding that nearly 10 billion Turkish liras ($1.4 billion) were given to workers who took unpaid leave.

Turkey also introduced a ban on employee layoffs while encouraging unpaid leave and increased the duration of the compensatory working practice.

Some 22 different insurance premium incentives, supports, and discounts are applied to protect and boost employment amid the pandemic, according to data compiled by the Turkish Presidency.

The government encouraged businesses to increase employment with an Additional Employment Incentive, Return to Work Incentive, and Premium Support for Women, Young People and Vocational Qualification Certificate, the presidency said.

Key support package

Akdag said the government also announced a relief package to cushion the pandemic’s impact on the economy, besides social welfare.

Citing IMF data released on April 6, Akdag said that as of March, Turkey’s total fiscal support package including additional healthcare spending, cash aid and unemployment benefits, as well as loan guarantees to firms and households, loan service deferrals by state-owned banks, tax deferrals for businesses, equity injections into public banks, and VAT reduction on certain goods (e.g. food and accommodation services), was 12.7% of the country’s GDP.

“When we compare it to other G20 emerging markets, this ratio is very important and high for an emerging country like Turkey,” he noted.

Akdag stressed that besides the central government, individual city governments also provide support for tradesmen.

Regulations for remote working

As remote working models have been widely used during the pandemic to ensure social distance, Akdag said some regulations were changed in line with this thanks to prompt action by the Labor Ministry.

“Some regulations were adapted to remote working styles while helping new job creation,” he explained, adding that similar actions will be taken in the coming days.

On the country’s current full lockdown lasting through May 17, Akdag said the government may consider introducing additional incentives if needed as the previously announced support packages are still in force.

Speaking as a former health minister (in 2002-2013 and 2016-17), Akdag said: “I wish it was possible to extend the lockdown period but the balance between health and the economy had to be considered.”


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