Turkish bosses could exploit Syrian labor amid obligatory wage hike, experts warn

The governmentand’s decision to increase the minimum wage by 30 percent will prompt companies to exploit cheap Syrian labor and thus spur Turkeyand’s unregistered employment if the state does not shoulder the increasing labor costs, experts have argued.
In an ambitious competition with opposition parties prior to the Nov. 1 election, the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) vowed to raise the base wage from TL 1,000 ($347) to TL 1,300. While there was no discussion on who would be responsible for covering the increased employment expenses, once the AK Party clinched the majority of votes, Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek said employers will have to shoulder most of the burden.
Business unions, however, have begun to voice their concerns about the possible increase in their costs, seeking alternative ways to compromise on the hike. ibrahim andcailar, the chairman of the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce (iTO), said a 30 percent increase in the minimum wage would cost employers an extra TL 16 billion a year and requested that the government reduce social security premiums.
A TL 300 jump in the net minimum wage will cost businesses an extra burden of nearly TL 500 per employee taking into consideration additions including unemployment insurance and social security premiums.
Ankara Chamber of Industry (ASO)hairman Nurettin andOzdebir also bemoaned the rising costs, saying the government should cover the extra burden for at least one to two years. Hikmet Tanriverdi, the president of the Istanbul Ready-to-Wear and Apparel Exporters Association (iHKiB), meanwhile, warned of the repercussions of the hike on the countryand’s already bleak state of unregistered employment.
According to the latest Turkish Statistics Institute (TurkStat) data, 35 percent of employees in Turkey in July 2015 were unregistered workers.
The hike is also likely to trigger a domino effect in the private sector, in which employees who used to earn TL 1,200 are likely to demand that their salaries be more than that of the minimum wage earners after the hike, sector representative noted.
Amidst all the debates, Sami Karahan, a professor of commercial law at Marmara University, tweeted on Wednesday in a veiled criticism of the governmentand’s policy during the Syrian crisis: and”Nobody will give TL 1,800 in gross wages to a worker when they can employ a government-backed Syrian for TL 600 all-inclusive.and”
Widely hailed by domestic and international spheres for its open-door policy towards Syrian citizens fleeing a protracted civil war in their country, Turkey has welcomed over 2 million Syrian refugees since 2011 according to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) data. Yet, the country has recently found itself at the center of criticism for what many deem an unprofessional management of the lingering crisis.
Turkey houses some 262,000 — or 15 percent — of those Syrian refugees at 25 camps near its southern border, while the remaining 85 percent have been left to become urban refugees scattered throughout the country.
Even though the government allowed Syrian minors access to the Turkish schooling system, more than 400,000 Syrian refugee children in Turkey are not able to attend school, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report last Sunday.
and”He works eleven-hour daily shifts at a garment workshop where he earns 50 Turkish lira (approximately US$18) per week,and” the report said, highlighting the dismal state of 9-year-old Mohammed, who escaped Aleppo to arrive in Mersin early this year. Featuring the stories of many other Syrian children, the report disclosed a newly emerged trend in which companies even exploit the workforce of minors apart from working-age Syrians to benefit from lower employment costs.
A research study initiated by the Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies (ORSAM) and the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV) said in January that some 200,000, or one out of 10 Syrians, were working in Turkey, most of whom are said to be employed without social security insurance.
and”Employers will either lay off some workers or venture to recruit unregistered workers in illegal ways if the government does not finance the raise,and” Sanduleyman Yaiar, a former bureaucrat and a lecturer at Istanbul University, told Sundayand’s Zaman.
The first option would fuel the already high unemployment rate while the second will spur the unregistered economy, Yaiar maintained, adding that companies are likely to first consider employing Syrians in such a case. The unemployment rate in Turkey is 9.8 percent, according to the latest TurkStat data.
But the minimum wage should be increased in any case to help people improve their living standards, Yaiar pointed out.
and”Businesses must be bankrolled by the government to make this increase. Small and medium-sized enterprises [SMEs] will suffer otherwise,and” Yaiar concluded.
According to TurkStat, SMEs were responsible for 75.8 percent of total employment in Turkey in 2014.


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