In early 2015 we wrote a post about Turkey’s declining fertility rates. What worried some in the Turkish government was that the Kurdish minority continued to have large numbers of children and could become a majority in a few decades if current trends continued. Despite some demographers doubting the possibility of a Kurdish majority, the Turkish Prime Minister called on Turks to do their patriotic duty and have more children so that the “disaster” of a Kurdish majority will not occur. In 2015 the total Turkish fertility rate dropped to 2.14 children per woman (it was 2.37 in 2001) which is very close to the 2.1 needed to replace the population (anything below 2.1 will see a population decrease over time without immigration). But even before population decline begins, the effects of a declining birthrate can be seen: according to Didem Daniş, an associate professor of the sociology department of Galatasaray University, Istanbul, Turkey is now “one of the fastest aging countries in the world”.
Aside from trying to increase the Turkish birthrate in Turkey, the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is calling on Turks living in Europe to start having more babies. Each Turkish family living in Europe should have five children each since a growing Turkish population would be the best answer to EU’s “vulgarism, antagonism and injustice”. These comments must be set in the context of Erdoğan’s attempt to secure new powers via a referendum. When one of his Ministers was unable to address supporters in the Netherlands, he began a diplomatic fight with both the Netherlands and Germany: the Dutch government are “Nazi remnants” and Germany is harbouring terrorists. Both of these countries have large numbers of Turkish voters (1.4 million in Germany alone) as do Austria, Bulgaria and the UK. Not only should these Turks have families of five children but Erdoğan told them that:
“The place in which you are living and working is now your homeland and new motherland. Stake a claim to it. Open more businesses, enroll your children in better schools, make your family live in better neighborhoods, drive the best cars, live in the most beautiful houses.”
Easier said than done, but I’m sure that many Turks living in the EU would love to heed his advice if they could. Of perhaps more concern to the EU is the claim that the Turkish government is thinking of tearing up the agreement under which it agreed to stop migrants heading to Europe from leaving Turkey. Whether or not the Turkish government will do so is perhaps moot, the fact that they are using it as a diplomatic lever against the EU shows the tensions between the two sides: the EU does not want a repeat of the largescale migrant crisis, while Erdoğan wants to win the referendum. If successful, he could potentially stay in office until 2029. By then it might be seen whether or not Turks at home or in the EU have heeded the call to have more children.