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Turkey records dramatic decline in its fertility rate: official data

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Data from the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat) on birth statistics has revealed an alarming decline in the country’s total fertility rate from 2001 to 2023, raising concerns about maintaining the country’s population at the desired level.

According to the Turkstat data, the fertility rate, which stood at 2.38 children per woman in 2001, had decreased to 1.51 children per woman by 2023, showing that Turkey’s fertility rate remained below the population’s replacement level of 2.1 children per woman. The population replacement has remained below 2.1 since 2016 and has never recorded an increase since 2001.

The crude birth rate, which refers to the number of live births per thousand people, was 20.3 in 2001. It had declined to 11.2 per thousand people by 2023, the TurkStat data also showed.

The number of live births in Turkey was 958,408 in 2023, while it was 1,323,000 in 2001.

The provinces with the highest fertility rates per woman are the southeastern provinces of Şanlıurfa (3.27), Şırnak (2.72) and Mardin (2.40), while the provinces with the lowest fertility rates are northwestern provinces of Bartın (1.13), Zonguldak and Karabük (1.14) and the western province of Kütahya (1.16).

The age window when women give birth to the highest number of babies is 25-29. The average age of women who give birth is 29.2.

When the total fertility rates of 27 European Union member countries were analyzed in 2022, the country having the highest total fertility rate was France, with 1.79 children, and the country having the lowest total fertility rate was Malta, with 1.08 children. Turkey ranked fifth among the European countries with 1.63 children per woman according to its 2022 figures.

The alarming decline in Turkey’s birth rate comes against the backdrop of frequent calls from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who advises families to have at least three children to boost the country’s population, drawing the ire of feminist groups and women’s rights associations.

He also advises “Muslim families” not to use birth control or family planning and opposes C-sections as well, angering the same organizations.

Shrinking family sizes

The institute also reported, based on data from the Address Based Population Registration System (ABPRS), that Turkey’s average household size decreased from 4 people in 2008 to 3.14 people in 2023.

The ABPRS data further showed that the number/frequency of one-person households increased from 14.4 percent of the total population in 2015 to 19.7 percent in 2023.

Turkey recorded a population of 85.3 million in 2023.

On the contrary, the number of one-family households, comprising a couple without children or a couple with at least one child or a lone parent with at least one child, and extended-family households, covering at least one nuclear family household together with non-family members, saw a decline. While the number of one-family households decreased from 66.9 percent of the total population in 2015 to 63.8 percent in 2023, the percentage of extended-family households declined to 13.2 percent of the total population in 2023 from 16.5 percent in 2015.

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