EYT is an acronym one comes across rather frequently on Turkish social media. The term means "Emeklilikte Yaşa Takılanlar," which roughly translates to "Those hindered from retirement due to age," and refers to an informal group of people eagerly awaiting the government to lift this obstacle before their early retirement. They have repeatedly rallied across Turkey to earn the right to retire, citing 1999 regulations. For the government, their demands are seen as out of the question due to the huge extra costs that would be inflicted on the state budget as a result.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is determined to block the group's bid, saying he wouldn't step back from his stance – even if it cost him the election. The president repeated his opposition against the EYT platform’s demands on Monday. Speaking to reporters on a plane on his way back from Qatar, Erdoğan said, “Soon, everyone will admit that it is a measure that would spell the collapse of the country’s economy, to manipulate it, and I will oppose it.”
Supporters of early retirement say they do not qualify for retirement despite having paid the required premiums in light of a resolution passed by Parliament in 1999, in the aftermath of the Aug. 17 earthquake that dealt a huge blow to the Turkish economy. Article 4447 raised the national age of retirement to 58 for females and 60 for males, effectively ending earlier schemes that had provided many the opportunity to retire early. The regulation also significantly increased the number of days an employee ought to pay premiums to qualify for retirement. However, a Constitutional Court ruling in 2001 blocked the legislation based on age limits and ruled for the stay of execution. A new regulation was introduced in 2002 – in the aftermath of the 2001 financial crisis that saw many banks collapse, along with austerity measures required by the World Bank and the IMF – with a new scheme allowing a gradual retirement system for employees whose first employment dates were before September 1999, the month the first regulation came into force. It again practically increased the retirement age for all, provoking outrage among EYT supporters, who have since called for a reversal of the regulations, demanding they be eligible for pension payments when they reach the quota of days required for premium payment, which is much earlier than the current retirement age.
The president told reporters Monday that such a reversal would not be beneficial to the country and that, on the contrary, it could cause serious harm. He cited the fact that early retirement schemes implemented in Scandinavian countries had a negative impact on their economies, adding that, in the end, those nations eventually abandoned those schemes and decided to increase the retirement age. Erdoğan echoed his earlier remarks reinforcing his opposition to the calls, stating he would maintain his stance even if it cost his ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) future elections. “We are combating unemployment, yet we face demands that will pave the way for unemployment. (EYT supporters) already have jobs. Why should we (retire) them if they would end up seeking employment again?"
"This is what would happen; unfortunately it would block other people’s rights to employment. This would cause serious damage to the Turkish economy,” Erdoğan said. “People want to retire early, but they won’t stop working after early retirement. They want to be employed again after retirement so they can have two salaries at once. Employers also tend to recruit this kind of unregistered labor, and unregistered employment is another problem we face in Turkey,” he stated. The president’s statements come after Family, Labor and Social Services Minister Zehra Zümrüt Selçuk’s remarks on the feasibility of the early retirement scheme. Selçuk said last week that they conducted “at least 10 analyses” and “tried every combination” to address the issue but “none came at a sustainable cost." She noted that Turkey needed to balance collected premiums and paid premiums.
Although the issue has centered almost entirely on retirement age, the main problem stems from lower pension payments introduced after 2000 and 2008. Those who have worked enough days and accrued enough days in the social security system to qualify for retirement wait for the age limit, and continue working in the meantime and pay social security premiums. However, over changes in the formulas used in calculating pensions, those who continue paying premiums have no extra benefits and end up receiving lower pension payments – as much as a third less than their peers in some cases – and this mainly affects low or middle-income workers.
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