Turkey’s declining birth rate rings alarm bell for economy

Once proud of its young population, Türkiye is now heading towards an aging society that might cost national economic prospects, warned experts.


Türkiye, with an 85-million-strong population, welcomed the birth of 958,408 children in 2023. The country’s total fertility rate has declined for eight consecutive years to 1.51 live births per woman this year, which remained below the population’s replacement level of 2.10, according to statistics published by the Turkish Statistical Institute (Tuik) in May.


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan profiled the downward trend as “an existential threat” to the country. He has repeatedly encouraged Turkish women to have “at least three children” to save birth rates from serious decline.


However, the cost and financial burden of raising children have dampened many people’s willingness.


Duygu Cevik is a 30-year-old teacher on a prolonged maternity leave to care for her 8-month-old son Deniz.


She told Xinhua in a cafe located near the landmark Atatule Tower in the capital Ankara that she and her husband do not plan for a second child due to “challenging economic conditions.”


“We are both teachers and we can hardly afford another child,” she said, mentioning the shooting cost of rent, childcare, and other expenses involved in bringing up children.


Experts have warned that the decreasing birth rate and the resulting aging population will inevitably impact Türkiye’s already fragile economy and its public social security system.


Atilla Yesilada, a country advisor at business management consultancy Global Source Partners, told Xinhua that factors, such as labor force loss and rising retirement age, may affect economic growth.


The economist warned that “with an employment rate of less than 50 percent and median age surpassing 30, Türkiye needs to find high-paying jobs for its youth very rapidly.”


The burden of healthcare and pension spending for older populations will fall on a shrinking workforce, according to Yesilada.


In his view, Türkiye needs swift and painful structural reforms to escape the demographic trap in addition to financial incentives given by the government to families wanting new babies.


The Tuik data shows that the elderly made up 9.5 percent of the population in 2020 while the number increased to 10.2 percent last year, reaching double digits for the first time in the history of the country.


Immigration could help boost the shrinking Turkish workforce. However, the growing hostility of the local population towards the country’s mostly Syrian 4 million registered refugees may make this challenging.

“Türkiye needs to make additional efforts to integrate refugees in the labor force,” Metin Corabatir, head of the Ankara-based Research Center on Asylum and Migration, told Xinhua.


He said that numerous Syrian refugees are employed in informal jobs in major cities, where their labor is needed, and their right to work should be guaranteed.

In population projections, it was predicted that the ratio of the young population in the total population would decrease to 14 percent in 2030, 13.4 percent in 2040, 11.8 percent in 2060 and 11.1 percent in 2080.


It was observed that Turkey’s young population rate was higher than the young population rates of 27 European Union (EU) member countries. When the young population rates of 27 EU member countries were examined, the average young population was 10.6 percent in 2023.


Prof. Dr. Çavlin says that a population below the replacement level can only be said to be stagnating and then decreasing if it continues like this for a generation.



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Stating that Turkey’s population will continue to increase, albeit more slowly, until the 2050s, Çavlin predicts that the population will then “decline before reaching 100 million.”

Published By: Atilla Yeşilada

GlobalSource Partners’ Turkey Country Analyst Atilla Yesilada is the country’s leading political analyst and commentator. He is known throughout the finance and political science world for his thorough and outspoken coverage of Turkey’s political and financial developments. In addition to his extensive writing schedule, he is often called upon to provide his political expertise on major radio and television channels. Based in Istanbul, Atilla is co-founder of the information platform Istanbul Analytics and is one of GlobalSource’s local partners in Turkey. In addition to his consulting work and speaking engagements throughout the US, Europe and the Middle East, he writes regular columns for Turkey’s leading financial websites VATAN and www.paraanaliz.com and has contributed to the financial daily Referans and the liberal daily Radikal.