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Turkey sees sharp drop in population growth rate in 2020

Turkish passersby walk on Istiklal avenue during the new year's celebrations in Istanbul on December 31, 2020. Yasin AKGUL / AFP

Turkey’s annual population growth rate decreased from 1.3 percent in 2019 to 0.5 percent in 2020, according to data released by the Turkish Statistics Institute (TurkStat) on Thursday.

The population increased by 459,365 people over the previous year, reaching 83,614,362 in total at the end of 2020.

According to the data, 50.1 percent of the population (41,915,985) is male, while 49.9 percent ( 41,698,377) is female.

The foreign population residing in Turkey decreased by 197,770 to 1,333,410 in 2020, with 49.7 percent of them males and 50.3 percent females, the results of TurkStat’s Address Based Population Registration System (ABPRS) showed.

Turkey’s urban population climbed by 0.2 percent in 2020 to 93 percent of the total, while the rural population decreased to 7 percent compared to 2019.

Despite a decrease of 56,815 residents in 2020, İstanbul remains the most densely populated city in the country with a population of 15,462,452, 18.49 percent of the overall population.

İstanbul is followed by Ankara, İzmir, Bursa and Antalya, while the least populated city in Turkey is Bayburt with 81,910 people.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has repeatedly promoted population growth while criticizing practices such as birth control and family planning.

In December 2014, he gave a speech at a wedding and urged the newly married couple to have at least three children to help boost Turkey’s population figures. The president added that birth control was a form of “treason” because it “threatened” the country’s bloodline.

Erdoğan also criticized the late marriage age among the country’s young population during a speech in January 2020, accusing TV stations of promoting and legitimizing non-marital relationships in their programs and consciously undermining and looking down on family values.

“Why am I defending families having at least three children? Because strong nations are composed of strong families. … When there is population, there is capital, production and consumption. When there is no population, there is none of them,” he said.

An economic downturn and the value of the lira, which is hitting record low after record low, coupled with an additional negative impact caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, have rendered the Turks’ financial difficulties visible this year. A total of 20,881 people died of the coronavirus in Turkey in 2020.

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