Georgia is on the brink of a demographic catastrophe
17 July, 2014
Georgia is on the brink of a demographic catastrophe
The UN has foretold a kind of apocalypse for Georgia and its disappearance from the world’s political map. According to information provided by the UN’s sociological research center, Georgia is threatened by a demographic collapse. The research has revealed that by 2050 the world’s population will grow to 9.5 billion, but this growth will not affect all countries equally. Five countries, which are on the path of social regression already, might disappear from the map altogether in the coming decades.
As a population census conducted at the beginning of 21st century has shown, Georgia’s population comprised up to 4,340,000 people. By UN’s estimates, this amount is bound to decrease to 3,591,000 by 2050. International experts say that among reasons for such a steep demographic decline are high levels of poverty, increase in migration (especially among the youth) as well as economical and political problems.

According to Georgia’s own demographers and sociologists, over the course of the last 8 years, 162 Georgian villages became fully abandoned, while population of 158 more does not exceed 8-10 denizens; some villages are inhabited by a single person. Statistics show that birth rates after WWII were higher than they are now. There were 124,000 infants born in in 1961, while today’s births don’t account even for a half of this amount. Abortions exacerbate the situation: there were 14,000 abortions registered in 2003, while in 2013 this amount has increased to 40,000. Sociologists explain that the amount of unregistered abortions exceeds the amount of registered ones by almost three times, comprising between 100,000 to 150,000. Basic math shows roughly 200 abortions a day occur in Georgia. This is a very hard hit for such a tiny nation.
Six Georgian regions are especially distinct for their high mortality and low birth rates: Mtskheta-Mtianeti, Racha-Lechkhumi, Zemo Svaneti, Guria, Kakheti and Imereti. There are numerous factors influencing this. Due to poor social conditions, there are 450,000 socially unprotected citizens living in Georgia – almost 12 percent of the population. The demographic problem is exacerbated by internal migration: almost everyone is migrating to cities, especially Tbilisi. External migration is also a problem, with more than one million Georgians living abroad. The number of so-called long-distance families is also high, which negatively affects their relationships. Numerous other factors have also left their mark on the birth rate, among them wars in Tbilisi, Abkhazia and Samachablo as well as colossal growth in the amount of prison inmates. There were 3,000 inmates total in 2003; after Saakashvili’s declaration of zero tolerance towards crime and mafia, the amount of inmates grew to 25,000 by 2012.
The UN’s statistics have also shown that along with the decline of the Georgian-speaking population in Transcaucasia, the population of Azerbaijan will increase by 30 percent and Armenia’s by 7 percent. Both demographers and political scientists think that this perspective carries a danger of disbalance in the region, and thus the demographic question may as well be counted as a political issue.
Georgian Parliament’s Healthcare Committee has prepared a legislative amendment that will increase penalties for illegal abortion. There is also an active propaganda campaign planned, which will be aimed at turning women away from the idea of having abortions. According to initiators of these measures, this is one of the few ways of averting the demographic catastrophe.
“Those who commit an illegal abortion will be punished with either 120 to 300 hours of community service or 1 to 2 years of incarceration. In case of repeated offense, the culprit will be incarcerated for 2 to 4 years and will be prohibited from pursuing professional activity for 3 years. In case of illegal abortion resulting in death of a pregnant woman, all responsible will be punished with 4 to 6 years of incarceration and subsequent prohibition of professional activity for 3 years.
The government has apportioned 500 GEL in maternity benefits, while mothers who undergo c-section receive 800 GEL. Maternity leave has been extended to 6 months. Maternal assistance has also increased from 600 GEL to 1000 GEL. Following the Prime Minister’s initiative, families in regions with negative birth rates will receive a monthly allowance for each third and subsequent child born – 150 GEL in flatlands and 200 GEL in mountainous regions.

Mountain program

The government is beginning to implement a protectionist policy aimed at mountainous regions. According to the prepared bill, a special regime will be implemented for villages in mountainous or close to mountainous conditions. Any local or foreign investor, who establishes a business in the region that employs local population and uses local resources, will be exempt from any kind of taxation for first five years. Newly created families in the region that do not have their own dwellings will be given a certain sum of money as relocation allowance. If this money proves insufficient, they will be given an opportunity to receive the same sum as an interest-free loan under governmental warranty.

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