Children made up 27.2 percent of Turkey’s population in 2020, down from 27.5 percent in 2019 and the lowest since 1935, according to data released by the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat) on Tuesday.
Turkey’s overall population was 83.6 million in 2020 including 22,750,657 children aged 0-17. According to TurkStat data, 26.9 percent of the child population was aged 0-4 in 2020, 28.7 percent was aged 5-9, 28.2 percent was aged 10-14 and 16.2 percent was aged 15-17.
The southeastern province of Şanlıurfa had the highest child population at 45.3 percent, followed by the southeastern province of Şırnak at 42.8 percent and the eastern province of Ağrı at 40.9 percent. The provinces with the lowest child population were the eastern province of Tunceli and the northwestern provinces of Edirne and Kırklareli at 17.3, 18.1 and 18.7 percent, respectively.
Turkey’s child population is forecast to decline to 26.6 percent in 2025, 25.6 percent in 2030, 23.3 percent in 2040, 20.4 percent in 2060 and 19 percent in 2080, according to TurkStat.
In 1970 children made up 48.5 percent of the country’s population, a figure that dropped to 41.8 percent in 1990.
The average child population among the EU countries was 18.2 percent in 2020.
The TurkStat data is likely to disappoint Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who 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.