Armenia Faces Demographic Catastrophe – Health Official

Orkhan Jalilov Feature 29 March 2021
Armenia Faces Demographic Catastrophe – Health Official

The Armenian government plans to triple funding for reproductive programs, as the country faces a demographic catastrophe, a health department official said.

“The demographic situation in Armenia is deteriorating, as evidenced by a number of statistics” Nune Pashayan, Head of Mother and Child Healthcare Department of the Armenian Healthcare Ministry, said in a news conference on March 22, adding that the fertility rate is 1.6 children per woman, and needs to be 2.1 to maintain the population. 

"In this regard, the fertility rate has decreased almost 1.8 times compared to 1990, and if we take into account the level of infertility, which, according to the latest data, is 14.9% for women and 9.5% for men. This means that we are facing serious challenges," Pashayan added.

An infertility control program has been developed in Armenia in order to overcome the existing problem. The program includes several components: determination of the causes of infertility, its treatment and artificial insemination.

According to Pashayan, due to the coronavirus, no services were provided during the lockdown, but problems arose after the war, as a result of which about 300 million drams were spent on the program. "917 million drams is envisaged for the program in 2021, which is three times more than in 2020," she said.

Eduard Hambardzumyan, founder of the Fertility Center and president of the Reproductive Health Association says that the Armenian population will be 1.5 million fewer, by the end of the 21st century. "We are facing a serious catastrophe, which testifies to the importance of the role of reproductive health in solving the problem,” he added.

According to UNICEF, “Armenia has one of the highest rates of gender-biased sex selection in the world.” In 2018, 111 boys were born in Armenia for every 100 girls.

In the war over Karabakh with Azerbaijan in early 1990s, servicemen of the Armenian army aged 18-35 (the overwhelming majority) were killed. Based on the minimum age of young mothers - 18 years old, the parents of those killed in the war are now 36-53 years old. Doctors do not recommend having children at this age because of the danger of dangerous childbirth and the high risk of having a child with hereditary incurable diseases.

According to the Armenian media, 4,005 servicemen were killed, 1,600 are missing, and over 9,000 wounded during the recent 44-day war with Azerbaijan. 

Former president Serzh Sargsyan (2008–2018) said in 2017 that by 2040 the population could be 4 million, while Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinyan, suggested in 2019 that by 2050 it could be 5 million. 

Meanwhile, a United Nations' report published in September 2020 suggested that, by 2025, the Armenian population number would grow a little, reaching 2.977 million; but by 2050, it is projected to decline to 2.816 million.    

In parallel with the decline in the birth rate in Armenia, the level of migration is growing: in 2017, nearly 35,000-40,000 people left Armenia and did not return. According to Armenian experts, the dominant part of those leaving Armenia are people of reproductive and working age, which ultimately leads to an increase in the proportion of the elderly population. According to the data, the demographic balance is broken among 20-40-year-olds; the country lacks 60,000 men, which is the result of migration. 

Considering the possibility of immigration from the diaspora, ethnic-Armenian immigrants will unlikely arrive from the United States, France, Canada, Argentina or other large “traditional” diasporas, or from newer communities formed by emigrants since the 1990s in Belgium, Germany, Poland, Spain and elsewhere.

With government help, 22,000 people have fled to Armenia since the war in Syria beginning from 2011, of which an estimated 14,000 have stayed, according to United Nations refugee agency. 

Over a thousand people moved to Armenia within a month after the deadly explosion at the port of Beirut on August 4, 2020. The Lebanese Armenian community has been a source of migration to the West since the Lebanese Civil War, and that direction remains rather attractive. 

About 150,000 ethnic Armenians live in Lebanon, mainly in Beirut, making up about 4 percent of the population. Over 25,000 residents of Lebanon already have Armenian passports or residency permits.

A partial return of labor migrants from Russia seems the most realistic as they have close relatives in Armenia and the job prospects in Russia seem unstable as consumer demand is linked to oil prices. However, the issue of employment in Armenia remains problematic.

“The first 30 years of independence set in motion a demographic crisis so deep and lasting that it is unclear whether anything can be done today to rectify it. The resulting national security issues for Armenia are so serious as to jeopardize the viability of the country for the next 30 years,” Armenian Weekly reported in November 2018.