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Georgia breaks demographic stereotypes11.01.2013 | 17:27
Until recently it was believed that among the Muslim countries and peoples the fertility is by definition higher than among those who profess Christianity. However, recent statistics on Georgia and geographically neighboring states break these stereotypes.
In Muslim Turkey and Iran, such an important demographic indicator as the total fertility rate (number of children per woman) has fallen below 2.1 - the level needed for a simple reproduction of the population. In Turkey, it is now below 2, and in Iran - even less: in 2012, it was recorded at a record low for the country rate - 1.6. For comparison, according to the National Statistics Service, in Georgia in 2009, the birth rate rose to the level of 2. However, by 2011, it reduced to 1.9, but according to preliminary results of the past year it is likely to officially return to the level of 2. Thus, the stereotype that Georgians Christians have fewer children than Muslims - Turks and Iranians, should belong to the past.
Moreover, during the calculation of the total fertility rate they take "official" statistical data on the population, and they are overstated in all Caucasian states. Formally in Georgia there live 4.5 million people, but at least half a million people permanently reside abroad and do not come home for months, and even years. When you consider that many give birth overseas (of course, the Georgian official statistics does not take into account these children), the actual total fertility rate in Georgia is no lower than 2.1-2.2. Demographic crisis in the country is close to overcoming.
The growth trend in the birth rate is typical for almost all Orthodox countries of the former Soviet republics. For comparison, in Russia in late 90's of the last century, the total fertility rate rose from 1.3 to 1.7. That is, in an average Russian family there are more children than in average Iranian one.
The fact that the Iranian population is growing, while the population of Russia is not, can be accounted for "inertia". When birth rate in Russia fell below 2.1 (in the distant 70's of the last century), in Iran 6-7 children accounted per woman. In Georgia, that time this figure was 2.2-2.3. Thus, for three or four decades in Iran there occurred a catastrophic decline of demographic indicators, which is continuing, while in Georgia and Russia are beginning to become demographically healthier.
Similar trends are observed in Armenia. Although the "official" birth rate here is 1.7, it has actually reached the 2. Like in Georgia, in Armenia statistics includes Armenian citizens living abroad, but forgets to consider the children born abroad. As for Azerbaijan, today, on the background of Turkey and Iran, this is the most demographically prosperous Muslim state in the region: the actual birth rate here is as high as 2.3.
Meanwhile, it is advisable to look at the demographic trends in terms of changes in the traditions and religious thinking of the population.
In Muslim countries there is rapid secularization and Westernization. Residents of Turkey are actively adopting European outlook on life and demographic behavior. In Iran, despite the Muslim mouthpiece, there is the same process. Moreover, the official Islamic ideology is being perceived by Iranians this way: formally, they follow it, but "in the soul" they emulate the West, especially since the satellite television and the Internet help in this. And most importantly - is that the level of wealth and consumption in Turkey and Iran is rapidly approaching "Western living level". A large middle class with the corresponding values not including many children is forming there.
As for the Georgians, Russians and Armenians, we can say that a large part of the population has outgrown the European values. The initial euphoria of perestroika and the collapse of the Soviet Union was quickly replaced by the harsh reality and the need to survive somehow; and family ties contribute to the survival. Traditional family relationships degraded not as rapidly as it happened in Western Europe, and not as rapidly as it happens in Turkey and Iran. Therefore, not only the children benefits (that are great in Russia, but scanty in Georgia), but the realization that "life goes on", despite the economic difficulties, as well as the understanding that no one will help except for the relatives (including children), played a role in increasing the birth rate.
Orthodox Church, which is forthrightly fighting with abortion and encourages large families, has played its role in the growth of the birth rate in Georgia, Russia and Ukraine. The most telling example: the decision of the Catholicos Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II to be the godfather of the third and subsequent children in the family has caused a "demographic boom". According to demographers, this has increased the birth rate in Georgia for at least 20%. Thus, the "moral" incentives in the solution of demographic problems are much better than the material ones.