Turkey grapples with worrying figures in terms of an aging population while it strives to increase its population. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s famous advice to newlyweds urging them to have at least three children is the most basic testament to this need. The latest figures by Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat) confirm fears as family size has substantially shrunk in the past 12 years.
“Statistics on Family,” released by the state-run agency on Thursday, ahead of Family Week marked for May 15-21, shows the average household size dropped to 3.30 persons last year, from four in 2008. The proportion of one-person households, on the other hand, increased to 17.9% in 2020, up from 13.9% in 2014.
Şırnak, which usually tops the list of provinces with the youngest population, had the highest average household size, with 5.75 people, and it was followed by other southeastern provinces Şanlıurfa and Hakkari. Southeastern and eastern regions have traditionally been home to large families. Hakkari also had the highest proportion of extended-family households, with 24.4% in 2020, while this number was lowest in the central province of Eskişehir. Western province Çanakkale had the lowest average household size, with 2.61 people, and it was followed by the small eastern province of Tunceli and then Eskişehir.
Black Sea province Gümüşhane had the highest proportion of one-person households, with 28.7% in 2020. It was followed by Tunceli and then Giresun, another Black Sea province. Diyarbakır in the southeast had the lowest proportion of one-person households, at 10.2%. It was followed by Van and then Batman in the east.
The proportion of one-family households or those with childless couples, couples with at least one child or a single parent with at least one child, decreased to 65.2% last year, from 67.4% in 2014. Extended-family households or those with one “nuclear family” and nonfamily members living together, decreased to 14% in 2020 from 16.7% in 2014. Osmaniye had the highest proportion of one-family households, at 72.6% and Tunceli had the lowest proportion.
“Multi-person nonfamily households” where people not related to each other live together increased to 2.8% in 2020, from 2.1% in 2014.
The proportion of single parents with at least one child staying with them in total households was 9.7% in 2020. The majority of those single parents were mothers. Eastern province Bingöl had the highest rate of single parents with at least one child staying with them at 11.7%, and it was followed by Adana in the south while this number was lowest in Bitlis, another eastern province. Bingöl also had the highest number of single mothers, ahead of Adana and the western province of Izmir. The highest number of single fathers living with at least one child was in the southern province of Kilis, ahead of Malatya and Trabzon provinces.
The family statistics also touched upon marriages between relatives, particularly among first cousins. The rate of such marriages was 8.4%. Southeastern province Mardin had the highest number of people married to their relatives, at 20.6% and it was followed by Şanlıurfa and Diyarbakır in the same region. This number was lowest in two northwestern, neighboring provinces, Edirne and Kırklareli. The marriages, between first cousins, which have long been a tradition in some parts of Turkey, are declining, according to TurkStat, from 5.9% in 2010 to 3.8% in 2020. The highest rate of “cousin” marriages was in Şanlıurfa.
TurkStat says, based on life satisfaction surveys, families are the main source of happiness for the majority of Turkish people, as 69.7% of people interviewed last year on the issue declared so.
On orphaned children, statistics show that 269,202 children lost their father last year, while another 80,798 lost their mothers.
The demographic shift is a major concern for the country, which now ranks 66th among 167 countries with a high elderly population as the inevitable aging phenomenon continues to grip the country. The latest official figures show that the number of people at the age of 65 and above has reached 7.9 million, a 22.5% rise in the last five years. Experts link the aging trend to several factors, particularly to better health care that prolongs life in the country, where longevity has shown a rise in recent years. In the meantime, the government strives to promote having more children among families with a string of regulations, from longer maternity leaves to incentives for working women who put off plans to have children in pursuit of a career. "One will grow up alone, and two will be rivals, so have at least three," President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who himself boasts a large family, is known to tell newlywed couples on every occasion.
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