UNICEF Global     TR

* Although the growth of the population has started to slow down, children and young people will continue to account for a much higher proportion of the population than in the “developed” countries for many years to come. There is a need for more investment in these age groups.

* In some parts of the country, children make up an extremely high proportion of the population and/or are in the process of migration. Accordingly, special efforts are needed in the allocation of public services to ensure that all children benefit equally from their rights.

* There is evidence that some children still miss out on birth registration for the first few years of their lives - or longer in some cases. This issue needs to be pursued vigorously, as birth registration is the gateway to all children’s and citizen’s rights. 

2.1 Children in the population: Children and young people account for a high proportion of the population by western standards and will continue to do so in the coming decade. About 22.7 million children, defined as persons under eighteen, were living in Turkey as of the end of 2011, making up some 30.3% of the population. This percentage has been declining slowly due to reduced fertility and the growing population of adults. With respect to youth, the number of 15-24 year-olds in the population was about 12.5 million as of the end of 2011, accounting for 16.8% of the population. Despite signs of a shift in the arguably anti-natalist policies of the past half-century, the continued impact of urbanisation and increased education for women may keep fertility rates falling during the coming decade, causing the absolute number of children to stabilise or fall and the gradual decline in the percentage of children in the population to continue. Meanwhile, the number of 15-24 year-olds in the population, which was about 12.5 million as of the end of 2011, seems likely to remain at about this level, and the importance of this group as a proportion of the population seems likely to decline only marginally. The gender distribution of the child and youth population is expected to remain normal, with a slight preponderance of boys over girls.


Regional variations: The proportions of children and young people in society vary significantly from place to place. Under-eighteens make up 40-50 percent of the populace in the Southeast and some Eastern provinces, whereas in several smaller provinces in western Turkey this ratio falls to 20-25 percent. This is the result of sharp geographical variations in fertility rates. Among the five broad geographical regions identified for the purposes of the 2008 Demographic and Health Survey, the East had a total fertility rate of 3.26 compared to a range of 1.73 to 2.20 for the other regions. Data disaggregated by smaller regions, individual provinces or districts would almost certainly show steeper variations. The national total fertility rate was 2.16, but this was 2.0 in urban areas and 2.68 in rural areas.



Impact of migration: Migration from rural areas to urban areas and from poorer provinces to richer ones – a phenomenal trend of past decades which still continues, to some extent, today – has tempered the geographical variations in fertility rates and population structure, but also tended to transfer them to the various districts of major cities. It is clear that Turkey will remain very diverse in these respects throughout the next ten years, even assuming that fertility declines most markedly in those parts of the country and society where it is currently highest. Variations in population structure between locations and communities will continue to have important consequences for the provision of health, education, other social services, social protection and social assistance for children, young people and families.

Sources, availability and reliability of demographic data

Since 2007, population data has been published annually by the Turkish Institute of Statistics (Turkstat) based on the Address-Based Population Registration System (ADNKS), replacing the old system of periodic censuses. The data is broken down by gender, cohort and province, by rural and urban areas (defined administratively), and by marital status and literacy. The figures are sufficiently accurate to show general trends, but can show unexpectedly sharp variations from year to year for reasons which are not explained. As the ADNKS is still new, it has not yet generated official population projections. Turkstat also publishes regular data on births, deaths, marriages, divorces and domestic and international migration. In 2011, it began to conduct a Population and Housing Survey, with results due in October 2012, to add to knowledge of the labour force and employment, housing conditions, migration, disability, fertility and infant, child and adult mortality. Meanwhile, the five-yearly Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) conducted by the Hacettepe University Institute of Population Studies (HIPS) is the main source of information on family structure, birth registration and fertility rates, practices and preferences, as well as on mother and child health and nutrition and other related issues. The next DHS is due in 2013. Many international organisations including the World Bank, the OECD and UN organisations (UNDP, UNICEF, UNFPA) publish demographic data with international comparisons. Population trends are analysed from a long-term perspective in the HIPS publication, Demographic Transition in Turkey (in Turkish), covering 1968-2008. Population projections are given and their implications for education, labour, health and social security systems are discussed in Demography and Management Towards 2050, published jointly by the Turkish Industry and Business Association (TÜSİAD) and UNFPA in 2011.

2.2 Birth registration, non-registration and late registration: Birth registration has been problematic in the past and some children are still registered late, or possibly not at all, due to their disadvantaged backgrounds or personal circumstances. In 2008, 6% of children under the age of five were not registered with the population registry, according to the Demographic and Health Survey. This compared to 16% in 2003. The percentage of under-fives whose births were not registered nevertheless remained as high as 8% in rural areas, 11% in Eastern regions and 14% among children of mothers with less than a primary education. Reasons for non-registration or delayed registration of births are believed to include the difficulties faced by rural and mobile populations in reaching population directorates, and ignorance or distrust of bureaucratic procedures. Births may also go unregistered in cases where the child is abandoned by his or her parents, or where the parents are unmarried, or became married before reaching the legal minimum age, or are involved in crime, or were never themselves registered in the population. Lack of registration makes the child and the parents ineligible for health services and social assistance, while an unregistered child cannot obtain any kind of school certificate. In addition, problems related to birth registration can contribute to early marriage and child labour, and hinder all kinds of monitoring and statistical work. Many of the unregistered under-fives may be registered when the time comes for school enrolment. However, late registration also leads to the incorrect recording of ages, which can create problems such as having to study alongside children of other age groups or premature eligibility for military service. A new law on population registry services adopted in 2006 obliged schools, law-enforcement bodies and various other institutions and officials to report children without birth registration. Together with urbanisation and higher levels of education, and an amnesty for fines, these measures may have reduced the incidence of non-registration and delayed registration. Even so, further monitoring and additional measures may be needed to eradicate the problem altogether, from the counselling of expectant mothers to the modus operandi of registry offices.

UNICEF Turkey Country Office, Yukarı Dikmen Mah. Alexsander Dubçek Cd. 7/106, 06450 Çankaya/Ankara. Telephone: +90 312 454 1000 Fax: +90 312 496 1461 E-mail: ankara@unicef.org