The latest statistics show that fertility rates are still trending downward in aging Turkey. Figures from the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat) released Friday show the fertility rate dropped to 1.99 last year from 2.07 in 2017. The country's fertility rate refers to the average live births a woman has between the ages of 15 and 49.
The figures concern the country since a significant portion of its population is projected to be elderly in the near future.
Statistics show that the number of live births was 1.2 million in 2018, and more than half of the live births were males.
According to TurkStat, the fertility rate is still far below 2.10, the standard replacement level for a population. Two southeastern provinces, as usual, dominated the list of places with the highest fertility rates. Şanlıurfa had the highest at 4.13 for 2018, followed by Şırnak with 3.26 children. The lowest rate was in Gümüşhane, a Black Sea province, with 1.3 children, and it was followed by Kütahya in western Turkey with 1.43 children.
The crude birth rate, or the number of live births per thousand of the population, was 16.1 per thousand in 2017 and decreased to 15.3 per thousand in 2018. When the crude birth rate was examined by provinces, in 2018 the province having the highest crude birth rate was Şanlıurfa with 31.3 per thousand, followed by Şırnak with 27.2 per thousand. The province having the lowest crude birth rate was Edirne in northwestern Turkey with 9.5 per thousand. Edirne was followed by Zonguldak with 9.7 per thousand.
The highest age-specific fertility rate was in the 25-29 age group. The adolescent fertility rate or the average number of live births per thousand women in the 15-19 age group, meanwhile, dropped to 19 per thousand in 2018 from 29 per thousand five years ago.
Turkey has suffered from historic lows in fertility rates in recent years but fares well compared to other countries. The government strives to boost the rates amid gloomy projections of an aging population in a few decades. The country is still classified among the "young" countries, with steady growth in its population. Meanwhile, aging concerns for EU countries have reached alarming levels; so much so that some countries are turning to foreign workers to boost their workforce.
An improved health care system is credited with a boost in increased life expectancy at birth, and Turkey has started to take measures to counter the "aging" threat. Ambitious to sustain economic growth, the country has to juggle efforts to expand the workforce and address challenges, especially for women having children while remaining in the workforce. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's government has rolled out several incentives and policies in the past decade, from one-time cash payments for each newborn that increases with every successive birth in the family to covering daycare expenses of working mothers.
Experts in Turkey attribute the gradual slowdown in fertility rates to urbanization, a rise in the number of women pursuing education and their active participation in the workforce, which indirectly led to the postponement of births.