Turkey faces aging population as fertility rate declines
ISTANBUL – Anadolu AgencyTurkey faces the prospect of a problem common to most European countries – an aging population - as the number of live births and the fertility rate continue to decrease, according to a report by the Turkish Statistics Institute (TÜİK).
Turkey’s fertility rate decreased to 2.14 children in 2015, from 2.18 children in 2014, according to the April report. It was 2.37 in 2001.
The number of live births also decreased by almost 20,000, from 1,345,286 in 2014 to 1,325,783 in 2015, according to TÜİK.
The total fertility rate represents the ratio between the average number of live births in a year and the number that a woman would have during her childbearing years (15-49 age group) - not to be mistaken with the birth rate, which shows the number of babies per 1,000 people.
“Turkey is one of the fastest aging countries in the world,” Didem Daniş, an associate professor of the sociology department of Galatasaray University in Istanbul, said.
Danış underlined that Turkey was at risk of rapid aging with the elderly population increasing significantly.
In 2023, 10.2 percent of the Turkish population will be made up of people aged 65 years and over - a rate that was 7.7 percent in 2013.
Turkey currently stands at 8.2 percent in 2015, according to TÜİK.
Academic Sami Şener, the head of the sociology department at Sakarya University in northwestern Turkey, said the country does not currently face a serious aging issue when compared to Western countries.
“It could face Europe’s fate in 20 years if the decrease in the fertility rate is not prevented,” he however noted. “Therefore, Turkey should take immediate precautions and strengthen economic and social policies to encourage more births.”
The government has indeed been trying to come up with incentives.
“One or two children mean bankruptcy. Three children mean we are not improving but not receding either. So, I repeat, at least three children are necessary in each family, because our population risks aging,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had said at the International Family and Social Policies Summit in Ankara in 2013.
The government currently hands out 300 Turkish Liras ($102) for a married couple’s first child, 400 liras ($136) for the second and 600 liras ($205) for the third to encourage working women to have more children.
The government also plans to have part-time work be paid in full for mothers, following their 16-week maternity leave.
Danış however said the effect of those incentives would be limited.
“These efforts are not enough to increase fertility rate numbers and the government does not support families enough; for instance it does not provide day nurseries,” she said.
The fertility rate may be the highest in African countries, but it is also high in Sweden and France thanks to government support, she said.
According to the CIA World Factbook, in 2014 Niger ranked first in fertility rate with 6.89 while Turkey ranked 113rd with 2.08, after France, among 223 countries.
Şener pointed to women working full-time as a cause for lower fertility rates.
“I believe that this issue could be solved by moving ahead with a part-time working system for women,” he said.
Daniş cited urbanization, modernization and economic development as the main reasons for the decrease in fertility rates in Turkey.
“In cities, people consider children as an expense,” she said.
Daniş added that as individualization has increased with modernization, solidarity based on family has begun to dissolve.
She also said refugees living in Turkey could help solve this issue.
Turkey currently hosts nearly 3 million Syrian refugees, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency. More than 1 million of them are Syrian children, according to the Directorate General of Migration Management of the Turkish Interior Ministry.
“In Europe, the fertility rate of the settled population was lower than migrants’,” Danış added.
Şener also said that certain European countries were trying to solve the fertility rate issue by taking in migrants.