The Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat) released statistics on children yesterday ahead of the April 23 holiday that is celebrated as Children's Day in Turkey.
Figures that cover 2017 justify the authorities' concern on the decline in the country's youth population. The proportion of children to the total population, which stands at slightly above 80 million, is only 28.3 according to TurkStat. The number of children or those 0-17 years of age is 22.8 million as of the end of 2017. This percentage is alarming since children made up over 40 percent of the population almost three decades ago. In 2016, it was 28.7 percent.
According to official projections, the country expects a further decline in the near future in the child population. It will be 23.3 percent in 2040 and 19 percent in 2080. Turkey is the 97th country with the highest proportion of the child population among 167 countries.
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. The country 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.
Figures on children also touch upon the geographical concentration of the child population. Şanlıurfa has the highest proportion of children at 46.7 percent, followed by Şırnak and Ağrı, other cities in the southeastern and eastern Turkey where traditional families tend to be larger compared to those in western parts of the country. Tunceli, a small city in the east has the smallest child population at 17.2 percent, followed by Edirne and Kırklareli in the northwest.
Statistics on children indicate the most popular names in 2017 were Yusuf and Zeynep. Newborn boys were named Yusuf, Eymen and Ömer most, while names for girls were Zeynep, Elif and Defne. Yusuf and Zeynep have dominated the list of most popular names since 2000.
With regard to children's health, one out of every two babies was born by C-section, a concerning rise. C-section births were only 21 percent in 2002 and rose to 53 percent in 2015 and 2016. The government stepped up efforts to promote normal childbirth with awareness campaigns and a points system for hospitals having fewer C-section births.
One bit of good news for children is a decline in the number of early marriages, a disturbing phenomenon particularly prevalent in rural parts of Turkey. The number of marriages of girls aged 16-17 declined to 4.2 percent in 2017 from 6.2 percent in 2013, according to TurkStat. The highest number of such marriages was in Ağrı at 16.6 percent and Muş, two provinces in eastern Turkey.