Saturday, October 8, 2011

Armenian Adoption Adventure- Birthrate crisis in Armenia creates an aging population

Armenia, the land that some claim to be the world’s oldest is “ageing” in a way that is not good.

Armenia faces threat of demographic crisis, experts in the field say. Only during the first quarter this year as compared to the same period last year the number of births dropped by 1,126 in what specialists fear is only the beginning of the demographic decline which will last a few decades.

Even though there has been a tendency of birth increases registered since 2006, experts foresee a decline again, conditioned by the fact that people who were born in 1990s are this generation’s new parents and their number is quite low – averagely 35,000 people, reaching even up to 22,000 (annually).

“This is a serious threat for national security and economic development [of Armenia]. In some years we will not only fail to secure national security issues, but also economic growth. The country and its economy will no longer be competitive. Parallel to decline in birth rate, migration and rapid ageing will even deepen the demographic problems,” says Garik Hayrapetyan, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Assistant Representative.

Currently, the birth index in Armenia is 1.5, that is to say, each woman has only one-two children, whereas, in order of have a positive reproduction of a population this index should be at least 2.1 – three-four child in each family.

Ruben Yeganyan, demographer, president of “Armenian Social-Demographic Initiative” NGO, says that “the reproductive behavior of the population has been changed,” and Armenia-based Armenians have passed from two-three children family model to one-two children family model.

“This is a terrible change, which will be very difficult to recover in the future. Now the government must not only encourage birth of a third and more children, but also even the second one,” Yeganyan says.

UNFPA held a research in 2009 to find out the main reasons of the change in reproductive behavior of the population, the results of which proved troubling.

“It was strange enough that the social or housing problem was not in the first place; there is a problem which is even more worrisome and hard to solve – 44 percent of the population does not see their future in this country [Armenia], and they link no faith to the future of this country,” Hayrapetyan says. “This indicates that we deal with a larger-scale problem. The issue cannot be settled only through lump sum payments or having free of charge child-delivery aid. If the social problem is somehow easy to solve, than the solution of this moral-psychological issue needs more fundamental changes.”

According to Hayrapetyan, the Armenian demographic policy mainly settles daily problems, meanwhile, international experience shows that comprehensive programs are needed to stabilize the demographic situation UNFPA is planning to organize a conference of experts in Armenia to develop such programs.

“A conference with participation of world-known demographer-scientists, who have developed a number of demographic programs, will be held on October 19-21, in Yerevan. Their advice will help up understand which are the most effective ways of solving this problem in countries like Armenia. We have no more time to lose,” Hayrapetyan says.

Within the recent months concerns over migration were voiced from the highest tribunes. In 2009, the Government of Armenia adopted the concept paper on Democratic Policy Strategy; however the programs mentioned in it have remained on paper by now; only one of them is mainly working a “Free delivery aid certificate”, which secures free of charge birthing service for women in labour.

“Of course there are many things left to be done; however, the introduction of ‘Free delivery aid certificate’ has seriously promoted birth rate growth. Now the government patronizes health protection of maternity and childhood. Subsidies, assigned from the State Budget to cover delivery aid have increased by three,” says Ara Babloyan, Chairman of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Health Care, Maternity and Childhood.
Experts, however, do not believe that the rise in birth rate is the result of the implemented programs, considering them to be “short-term solutions.”

In 2009, 44,466 children were born in Armenia - eight percent more than in 2008; in 2010, this index was higher as compared to 2009 by about 3,000 children, whereas this year the index essentially fell (by about 1,000 children), even though the free delivery aid still continues.

“Within those years the birth rate has not risen, because one woman continues to have 1.5 children, however the absolute number of births has risen, which is determined by a very clear fact – the generation of the second half of 1980s entered its reproductive age, and it is well-known that it was a period of demographic boom in Armenia, when 81,000-82,000 children were born [annually]. That is to say, only the number of parents has increased, however, they have only one-two children, and that’s it, the growth will stop again,” Hayrapetyan says.

According to UN predictions, if the current pace continues Armenia’s population will drop by about 20 percent in 2050, totaling 2.3-2.5 million people. According the same source, Azerbaijan’s and Turkey’s populations will increase by about 35 percent.