Two-thirds of Turkey’s children live in extreme poverty, study says

By European Union standards, two out of every three children live in extreme poverty in Turkey, which has the highest child poverty rate of 12 selected EU member countries, a study conducted by Bahcesehir University Center for Economic and Social Research (Betam) has shown.

In press release on Tuesday, Betam researchers said that the study, which is based on Turkish Statistics Institute (TurkStat) data from a 2011 income and living standards survey, ranks Turkey below Eastern European countries like Hungary and Romania in terms of child poverty.

Extreme poverty among children — defined as lacking four or more of nine items on EU statistics agency Eurostat’s material deprivation criteria — in Turkey stood at 65 percent, while this rate is 36 percent in Romania, 29.5 percent in Hungary and 16.5 percent in Greece, Betam said.

Eurostat’s nine criteria are the ability to pay rent and utilities; to adequately heat a home; to pay unexpected costs; to eat meat, fish or a vegetarian equivalent once every two days; to take a week-long holiday outside the home annually; and to own a car, a washing machine, a TV and a phone.

TurkStat, which measures child poverty according to three criteria, found significantly different results in its 2011 survey, the study said: 67.7 percent of children in Turkey were not able to consume protein every two days, 39.9 percent lived in houses with insufficient heating and 40 percent couldn’t afford new clothes. According to TurkStat, 24.8 percent of children in Turkey lacked all three of these basic needs.

[Arabaslik] Deep regional disparity in child poverty

The BETAM study also pointed to a deep discrepancy between the eastern and western regions of Turkey. While child poverty stood at 50.9 percent in the Aegean region, it was recorded at 80.9 percent in the southeast Anatolian region. Child poverty averaged 75 percent in the northeast, central-eastern and southeast regions of Turkey, according to the study.

Child poverty in Turkey declined from 2006 to 10 before rising slightly in 2011, according to the study. Betam stressed in the press release that child poverty is severe and stubbornly high in Turkey according to international and domestic statistics and urged the government to prioritize the fight against child poverty in social policy projects.

In August last year, Ayman Abulaban, the UNICEF representative to Turkey, told Today’s Zaman in an interview that in most countries in the world, the child poverty level is usually higher than the national poverty level. He went on to say he appreciated the government’s steps to reach out to the vulnerable. “Turkey takes good steps in terms of legislation and policy on child poverty and child labor, yet implementation and sustainability is also as important as the legal aspect.”

“There are programs that we think need to be strengthened and supported to eliminate child labor as child labor is also part of child poverty. Some children have to work from an early age because of poverty, yet working without education will keep them in poverty. So we should take them out of that circle,” he said.

Abulaban focused on two steps the government could take on child poverty: Child-friendly budgeting and improving data collection on children and poverty in general. He said he hoped that each country would consider the interests of children in each and every item on their national budgets.

“The more the country knows about the where these children are, what their needs are, why their family came into this situation, the better help can be provided and the better the results will be,” he added.