Supports for Turkish workers expire as COVID-19 measures lifted

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Turkey’s pandemic-era ban on layoffs and a government wage support system, both adopted in early 2020, expired on Thursday as most remaining coronavirus restrictions were also lifted, setting the stage for a rise in unemployment.

Both measures aimed to support businesses and registered employees during the COVID-19 pandemic while keeping a lid on the jobless rate, which stood at 13.9% in April.

Economists say the lifting of the layoff ban will likely lead to a sharp rise in the number of unemployed as businesses, hard hit by virus-curbing measures, struggle to keep employees.

The so-called short labour wage system, which partially covered wages of workers whose hours were reduced, had ended at the end of March but was extended again after Turkey re-imposed tighter coronavirus measures.

The final stage in Turkey’s gradual normalisation process begins on Thursday, with curfews and lockdowns lifted, as well as all venues and businesses opening without restrictions.

Turkey has ramped up vaccinations in recent weeks after overcoming a supply shortage with around 20.7 million doses administered throughout June.

The total number of doses delivered since the nationwide campaign was launched in January exceeded 50 million on Thursday, with 15.15 million people having received a second dose out of Turkey’s population of around 84 million.

Photo: A man wearing a face mask carries a plastic case with Galata Tower in the background during the lockdown on a sunny day in Istanbul, Turkey. EPA-EFE/SEDAT SUNA