Turkish population nears 78 mln amid high unemployment

SHAFAQNA- The Turkish Statistics Institute’s (TurkStat) address-based census released on Wednesday, showed that the population had reached 77,695,904 as of December 2014, of which the working-age population between the ages of 15 and 64 constituted 67.8 percent. The yearly increase in total population stood at 1,028,040 in 2014, which means a 1.33 percent increase from 2013. The annual growth rate of the population was 1.37 percent in 2013. The increase in the working-age population was 1.4 percent year-on-year in 2014. The figures were revealed at a period when unemployment rates are stubbornly high and amid calls from politicians for families to have more children to counter a slowdown in population growth. The increase in working-age citizens puts a further burden on the government to create new jobs for the country’s still dynamic population. Turkey’s population was 76.66 million in 2013 of which 51.9 million were working age.

The employment rate in October of last year stood at 10.4 percent leaving more than three million people without a job. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu have separately urged married couples to have more children. Davutoğlu recently unveiled a plan to increase population growth, offering incentives for mothers to give birth. The package also included some specific incentives for working women, who typically have fewer children. The average number of children per family in Turkey is 2.6, whereas this figure is only one for families in which the female is working. The population steadily increased from around 20 million in 1950 to over 70 million in 2007 but stagnated at around 1 percent growth rate over the past few years. The government says the country needs to maintain a fertility rate of 2.1 per woman for a healthy population growth. Earlier estimates showed that Turkey’s population would reach approximately 88.5 million in 2030 if it had an annual growth rate of 0.88 percent between 2012 and 2030.

In 2014, children below the age of 14 amounted to 24.3 percent of the population, or in other words 18,862,430 people, while citizens aged 65 and over accounted for 8 percent — equaling 6,192,962 individuals — of the total population. According to the survey, the median age is 29.8 for men and 31 for women, resulting in a nationwide average of 30.7. The northern province of Sinop had the highest median age across the country at 39, while the province with the lowest median age was Şırnak at 19.1. Additional statistics related to gender show that slightly more than half of the country’s population is male, 50.2 percent or 38,984,302 citizens, while 49.8 percent, equaling 38,711,602, are women.

City-based results of the survey show that a 1.5 percent increase was experienced in the population of Turkey’s most crowded province, İstanbul, pushing the city’s population up to 14,377,018. Ankara remained the second most populous province of the country with 5,150,072 people and İzmir the third with 4,113,072 people. Citizens residing in İstanbul made up 18.6 percent of the total population, those in Ankara 6.6 percent and in İzmir 3.6 percent. İzmir was followed by Bursa and Antalya in terms of population. On the other hand, the eastern province of Bayburt had the smallest population with 80,607 people living in the city.

The percentage of people who reside in cities and towns increased to 91.8 percent, with the remaining 8.2 percent of the population living in rural areas and villages. In the meantime, the population density — the number of people per square kilometer — increased by one person compared to 2013, reaching 101 in 2014. The province with the highest number of people per square kilometer was İstanbul at 2,767, whereas the eastern province of Tunceli had the smallest population density with 12 persons per square kilometer.

Youth unemployment an increasing concern

In the midst of this growing population, youth unemployment, which has reached record levels in recent months, is raising concerns.

According to the TurkStat data, the youth unemployment rate — those between the ages of 15 and 24 — has increased by some 500,000 people in just six months, reaching 19.7 percent as of October 2014. This means that almost one out of every five young citizens in Turkey suffers from unemployment. The unemployment rate for those 15 and over was 10.4 percent, amounting to 3.043 million people, according to the latest recorded data.

Commenting on the unemployment figures, Seda Kaya, the head of the Aegean Young Businessmen Association (EGİAD), stated that difficulties in youth participation in the labor force, challenges that fresh graduates face while entering into job market and high unemployment rates across the country create the most critical economic and social problems.

Underlining that the government should take measures in order to increase youth employment, she added that the problem of youth unemployment has been causing personal traumas on an individual scale and also social problems on a public scale. Despite being listed among the top 20 economies in the world, Turkey’s high unemployment rate suggests that export and gross domestic products (GDP) targets will not be met through to 2023, Kaya added. Kaya also noted that the government should ease the business environment in the country so that companies are able to generate employment for the young population.

Also referring to the overall unemployment rate, Kaya noted that one out of every four unemployed individuals is a university graduate.

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