Expert Calls Sarkisian’s Population Growth Task Challenging

Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian addresses parliament on May 18, 2017 in Yerevan (Photo: National Assembly of Armenia)
Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian addresses parliament on May 18, 2017 in Yerevan (Photo: National Assembly of Armenia)

Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian addresses parliament on May 18, 2017 in Yerevan (Photo: National Assembly of Armenia)

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Raising Armenia’s population to 4 million by 2040 is a formidable challenge, an expert of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Armenia said concerning President Serzh Sarkisian’s recent speech in which he formulated the task.

In his address to the newly elected National Assembly on May 18, the Armenian leader among the priorities also pointed out the need for a considerable improvement of Armenia’s demographic situation in the coming decades.

UNFPA Assistant Representative Garik Hayrapetian said that Armenia, whose current population is estimated at about 3 million, will do a great job even if it can raise its population number by 500,000 during the next 20 years.

Garik Hayrapetian, UNFPA representative in Armenia (Photo: RFE/RL)

Garik Hayrapetian, UNFPA representative in Armenia (Photo: RFE/RL)

“Theoretically, everything is possible. But if we try to really estimate our abilities, then, I think, it will be rather difficult to achieve the announced figures. But even if we can achieve half of that, I think this will be a very big step forward for us in terms of improving and stabilizing the country’s demographic situation,” the expert said.

Hayrapetian identified two main directions for achieving this goal. “What may bring results much faster in the first place is the organization of immigration. But for this it is necessary that the country become very attractive so that people who once left wanted to return. The second direction is, of course, an increase in the birth rate, which is not a simple task either,” the UNFPA representative said, adding that another challenge for Armenia is its aging society.

Two years ago the UNFPA conducted a large study, concluding that in the best-case scenario, if steps are taken in this direction, the population of Armenia by 2050 will be 3.2 million, while in the worst-case scenario, if nothing is done to reduce the scale of outmigration and stimulate the growth of the birth rate, the population of Armenia will drop below 2 million.

In his previous speeches President Sarkisian never addressed specific figures connected with the demographic situation. Specific numbers are even difficult to find in the government’s program. Only the program for 2012-2017 indicates that the government intends to bring the birth rate coefficient to 1.8. However, in 2016, as it was in 2012, this coefficient remained at the same level – 1.6.

Meanwhile, according to official statistics, since 2008 Armenia’s permanent population has dropped by more than 100,000 – from 3.1 million to 2 million, 990 thousand. According to the Migration Service, about 346,000 citizens have left Armenia for good since 2008. The birth rate slightly increased after 2008, but then it declined again. Since 2014 it has tended to consistently decline, while the mortality rate, on the contrary, is rising.

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