Armenia’s Looming Demographic Crisis

Demography is the statistical study of populations. The size of a population, as well as its age structure, at any given point help tell the story of a nation; its ups and downs, and its triumphs and traumas. It also helps us know if and when we should be concerned.

Figure 1. Armenia 1989 Population Pyramid (data from U.S. Census Bureau)

The population pyramid shown in Figure 1 displays the structure of the population of Armenia in 1989 by gender and age. In a stable population with constant birth and death rates and no migration, one would expect to see a smoother progression as each older age group represents slightly less of the total population than the next younger group. The uneven pattern depicted instead shows the impact of historical events on the population.

One can surmise that the lower proportion of those aged 40-49 could be a result of less births during and immediately following World War II. The impact though goes further than that as the lower births from 1940 to 1949 also led to lower births 25 to 40 years later. In essence, the lower births from 1940-49 led to less adults in the age groups when families are formed between 1965-80 and thus ultimately led to a lower proportion aged 10 to 25 in 1989.

Figure 2. Armenia 2001 Population Pyramid (data from U.S. Census Bureau)

The pyramid in Figure 2 shows the marked changes in the age structure of Armenia after only 10 years of independence. First, we see that the effects from lower births during and following WWII are still felt in births two generations later. But it is more than that. As those in the prime years of family formation participated in the Artsakh war or immigrated in the years after for economic reasons, one can easily see the precipitous drop in those under the age of five and can imagine what impact this will have in the formation of families after 2020.

The decline in Armenia’s population since gaining independence and the subsequent three decades is nothing short of a crisis. Without significant changes, the process already set in motion will lead to further declines in the population.

Figure 3. Armenia 2011 Population Pyramid (data from U.S. Census Bureau)

The pyramid in Figure 3 is for 2011. The sharp drop in births seen in 2001 has continued for another decade. In addition, the births are heavily weighted toward male children (15% more males than females). One can easily understand the additional strain this will cause by 2030 in family formations.

Diasporan communities being formed today, who are prospering in their host nations, offers no guarantees of repatriation to Armenia, or even of having close ties with a country their parents chose to leave.

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.

Figure 4 depicts the projected population pyramid in 2041, less than 25 years from now. in hard terms, the population of Armenia will conservatively be reduced by another 20% or more.

The only way to reverse the damaging trends is to promote larger families and a return of those who have most recently left the country. A large influx of Armenians from other countries, for example Syria, can also make a difference.

Figure 4. Armenia 2041 Population Pyramid (data from U.S. Census Bureau)

For the past 20 years, one can easily compare the social, economic and political life in Armenia to western Armenians in the late Ottoman period. Often 30 percent or more of the men of a village were elsewhere working at any particular moment. Presumably to increase the likelihood of the men returning to their family and village, these men would marry and often have children prior to leaving for work. A pregnant wife, a child never scene, were strong incentives indeed. In addition, the age difference between husband and wife often led to children being born to men over the age of 50.

It is easy to speak of these things in detached mathematical terms. It is much harder to change the reality on the ground—for one, the end of corruption and offering incentives for economic expansion.

But what is truly needed is a revolution in how we view Armenia and how Armenia views itself. Some will point to the political events of this year as a positive sign, but it is only a beginning and the hard work begins today.

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13 Comments

  1. The reason why Armenia has a worrying demographic decline (I would not call it crisis yet) is because every one of Armenia’s past presidents was a non-visionary incompetent fool. The current prime minister is also on the same path, although it is not conclusive yet because we will see what transpires in the next few years first. You have to be completely stupid to be in a state of war, and let your population emigrate instead of using that population to lead the nation to victory. Oh wait, I forgot that Armenia does not have an independent foreign policy which acts for its own interests. Armenia must have been on orders from a foreign entity claiming to be protecting Armenia “or else”. Except that foreign entity is also a jubilant supporter of Armenia’s enemy, and plays the two dupes against each other, for maximum profit and a free base in Armenia to keep watch on NATO, regardless of how many Armenian soldiers are giving their lives to defend their land, as long as it is not Russian soldiers losing their lives, everything is ok for Mother Russia.

    • I agree in all you said, however I would be more careful in blaming Russia, if you live in a western country, it’s a good place to blame where you live, they have done a lot of shit just to satisfy Turkey, specially US that gave visas and section 8 to bring them over.

    • Our only border with the west is through Russia our gas is from Russia and there’s Armenians in high power there from RT to the government and military.. in the west we have nothing.. even the Armenian organizations in the US are supposedly colluding with the Kremlin when that’s complete bullshit. Honestly you need to see the bigger picture it’s not all about the past. Take a walk in a Moscow super market and you will be shocked by the amount of Armenian goods. We will never have that in the west because of geographic reasons so do not ruin relations with the most important country.. it’s stupid even if you did hate them. It’s stupid.

    • Ar, I am not hating on Russia or trying to ruin any relations. My complaint is for the incompetence of Armenian politicians, and carelessness Russia has regarding Armenia’s desperate situation, a situation which Russia is at least in part responsible for. My message is, it is OK to admit that Armenia would be overrun from Turkey if not for Russia, so long as we are honest to admit that it was all part of Russia’s design in the first place. Armenia’s marriage to Russia is through a shotgun arrangement, not love. If there was any love, Russia would have shown tremendous appreciation for all the Armenian men who gave their lives for Russia in WWII and all those Armenian engineers and scientists who were critical in the technological advancement of the Soviet Union. Armenia gave its soul to Russia. All we got back was… hmmm can’t think of anything, must be NOTHING.

    • What do you mean by “let people emigrate” instead of lead the population to victory? Can you elaborate a little bit? You think the leader, in this case the PM should confiscate people’s passports and force them to stay in the country? Armenia has numerous economic problems and it is perfectly natural that some will prefer to move to another country and enjoy a better life. What part of this is too difficult to understand? The current PM lives an extremely transparent and modest life. Walks from Republic square to the other government building just to show he is one of people. His family spends their vacation in a modest hotel in Stepanakert while many middle class Armenians can afford a week in Egyptian resorts. What else should this government do to show they are not plundering people? You expect him to cut ties with Russia and instigate another war with Azerbaijan? Then who is going to help us when Turkish fighters started violating our airspace? Lunatic Trump? The same way he helped Kurds? Armenia is in difficult condition and needs its sons and daughters who are ready to help not internet warriors who only criticize.

  2. I agree in all you said, however I would be more careful in blaming Russia, if you live in a western country, it’s a good place to blame where you live, they have done a lot of shit just to satisfy Turkey, specially US that gave visas and section 8 to bring them over.

  3. Support families specially younger ones use the Armenian church clergy to visit as many families as is to encourage to have more children .& to create jobs & income for those families also financial assistance to families more then 3 childre etc .

  4. Արդինին պատախանելով, իրողութիուն է գրածդ: եթէ թուրքը պատճվեր փոխանակ գնահատվեր իր գազանյին արաքնրուն համար, և եթէ Ամերիկեան կառավարութիունը կրիին գարտով և նիութական օգնութեամբ չօգնէր գաղթողներուն, կացութիունը բոորովին տարբեր պիտի ըլլար: յիշենք նաև որքան Հայեր ռուսաստան գաղթեցին քաջալերված ռուս կառավարութեան խօստումնեէն: լեւոնն սկսեալ իշխանութիուննրը, անհոգ մնալէ անդին գացին:

  5. I for one would drop everything in a heartbeat and move to my own country, Armenia, if it weren’t for the virus of greed and corruption of those in power that had sucked the country dry for so many years!

    • The less good people move to Armenia because of the corruption during the past 30 years, the more powerful they become because the citizens and others living there previous to the revollt in the Spring, were threatened. Move if you can and be an example.

  6. Armenians are a dying people. All Armenians everywhere are assimilating and the country is dying and empty due to corruption. Armenia is a prostitute for Russia and nobody wants to remain in the country. Heck, even many Armenian women have left for Turkey and become Muslim for a Turkish husband for economic reasons. Our history, culture, etc is dying and most Armenians could care less. The more I want to help, the more I become ashamed and depressed at our current miserable situation and it will only continue ad infinitum until we eventually die because of globalism and multiculturalism. Israel will always exist, China will always exist, but Armenia will not.

    • Theophilus: Do you mind sharing some of your personal experiences in life that have led you to such a pessimistic viewpoint? I live in a thriving Armenian community that has just about stayed the same if not perhaps grown slightly in the past 30 years. My thought – with your attitude we’ll certainly be destined for failure.

  7. This is a sad and concerning situation. The negative comments, though some valid, are not helpful as no solutions are offered.
    The past is past. We now have to focus on the future and how to rebuild the country.
    To significantly improve the economy, stop the emigration and strengthen families the following needs to happen:

    a- Eliminate the grip the Oligarchs with their monopolies have on major sectors of the economy.
    b- The Government has to walk the talk and eliminate corruption at all levels.
    c- Create a level playing field where investments are encouraged and the economy is stimulated.
    d- Large scale major industrial projects are needed to create employment with decent paying jobs.
    Restaurants and fast food outfits do not create many jobs that pay well.
    e- The political games and maneuvering should come to an end. All political parties, whether in governing or opposition, should put the country first and reach an agreement on what needs to be fixed and do it.
    The road ahead is difficult and unless the obstacles are removed the future cannot be bright.

    Vart Adjemian

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