Turkey will mark National Sovereignty and Children's Day on April 23, an occasion celebrating both Turkey's and the world's children. However, statistics released on Friday indicate a decline in the youth population, as Turkey is challenged by the phenomenon of an aging populace in the coming decades.
Figures by the state-run Turkish Statistical Agency (TurkStat) show the proportion of the youth population was 28.7 percent, i.e., 22.8 million at the end of 2016. It is a concerning decline compared to 1935 when children in the fledgling Republic of Turkey constituted 45 percent of the total population. Statistics show that the youth population peaked at 48.5 percent in 1970 before starting its gradual decline in the following years. Turkey ranks 96th among 167 countries with the highest proportion of youth, TurkStat says.
The latest numbers corroborates authorities' concerns about the aging population. Turkey pursues policies encouraging families to have multiple children while President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan frequently uses the motto, "have at least three children" in his famous advice to newlyweds.
Turkey, a country of more than 78 million people, hopes to boost its population numbers by offering incentives to larger families such as longer paid leave and social benefits. Projections made earlier by TurkStat show that the elderly population will increase to 10.2 percent by 2023 and is expected to rise even further in the following decade. Experts link these projections to a decline in fertility and new treatments to increase longevity being available.
Statistics also show the highest proportion of the youth population is concentrated in the southeastern and eastern cities. Şanlıurfa dominates the list with a youth population of 47 percent and is followed by Şırnak and Ağrı, which have a proportion of the youth population to the total population at 46.8 and 44.5 percent, respectively. Tunceli, another eastern city, has the lowest youth population at 17.6 percent and is followed by two cities in northwestern Turkey.