Turkey readies incentives to halt falling birth rate

Thu Jan 31, 2013 1:16pm EST
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By Jonathon Burch

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey plans to offer incentives including free fertility treatment to try to reverse a slowing birth rate after official figures showed the median age of its population has crept above 30 for the first time.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan wants Turkey, a nation of more than 75 million people, to be among the world's top 10 economies by 2023 when the Turkish Republic turns 100 years old.

Per capita income has trebled during his decade in power.

But the government fears that an ageing population could eventually lead Turkey down the same path as more developed economies in Europe, towards a shrinking workforce and rising welfare spending.

A greying nation also sits uneasily with Turkey's self-image as a virile and dynamic nation, eager to take a more prominent role on the world stage.

A religious and social conservative, Erdogan has for years publicly advocated families having at least three children, and more recently has suggested having five.

But since he came to power, the country's fertility rate, the ratio of births to the number of women of childbearing age, has fallen below the 2.1 needed to replenish its population, sinking to 2.02 in 2011.

This week, Turkey's statistics bureau (TUIK) released data showing the median age has risen above 30 for the first time, to 30.1, up from 29.7 in 2011. Population growth slowed from 1.35 percent in 2011 to 1.2 percent last year.   Continued...