According to the 2002 universal population census, Georgia’s population was about 4,371,535 people. The 2014 universal population census, however, found that the country’s population was 3,713,804 which was 15% (657,731 people) less than the results of the previous census. It is interesting to understand why Georgia’s population is decreasing.

Of particular note is that the statistics of the National Statistics Office of Georgia (GeoStat) and the International Monetary Fund about Georgia’s population from 2003 to 2016 differ significantly. This is due to the fact that the National Statistics Office of Georgia did not correct its data from 2003 to 2014 based upon the results of the 2014 universal population census.

According to the data of the National Statistics Office, the population of Georgia decreased by 776,800 people in just one year, from 2014 to 2015, which seems quite unrealistic. The International Monetary Fund, on the other hand, used the 2014 census data and the method of linear interpolation to correct its population data from 2003 to 2014 (see Table 1).

Table 1:Georgia’s Population as of 1 January

Year National Statistics Office of Georgia International Monetary Fund
2002 4,371,500 4,372,000
2003 4,342,600 4,318,000
2004 4,315,200 4,265,000
2005 4,321,500 4,211,000
2006 4,401,300 4,158,000
2007 4,394,700 4,104,000
2008 4,382,100 4,051,000
2009 4,385,400 3,997,000
2010 4,436,400 3,944,000
2011 4,469,200 3,890,000
2012 4,497,600 3,837,000
2013 4,483,800 3,783,000
2014 4,490,500 3,730,000
2015 3,713,700 3,690,000
2016 3,720,400 3,678,000

A country’s population is the number of its people living on the territory of the country in question during a census period. Georgia’s population does not imply the number of ethnic Georgians or the overall number of Georgian citizens. For example, a Georgian immigrant might still be a citizen of Georgia but would not be included in the population mass. Similarly, the converse is true as well as a citizen of a foreign country residing in Georgia would be included in the population number.

Three main factors determine changes in a country’s population: birth rate, death rate and migration. Birth rate is determined by the number of births per thousand people and death rate is the number of deaths per thousand people. The difference between the birth rate and the death rate is called natural population growth.

Migration refers to a changing of a person’s place of residence. Migration can be domestic or international. Domestic migration refers to the changing of a place of residence within the country in question whilst international migration means moving across the borders. In order to look into the changes in a country’s population, one needs to look at international migration data in order to determine how many people leave and enter a country in question.

According to the data of the United Nations, Georgia was the 138th country in the world by birth rate from 2010 to 2015 with an average of 13.7 births per thousand people. However, it should be noted that this indicator is among the highest in Europe with Georgia holding the third position after Azerbaijan and Ireland.

The average birth rate in European countries is among the lowest in the world with just 10.8 new births per thousand people. This is due to differing mentality and cultural factors. For example, the social responsibility that parents feel towards their children is quite high in Europe. In developing countries, on the other hand, children are often viewed as an additional labour force and parents do not think about whether or not they have enough resources to bring up a large family of children.

Nonetheless, Georgia still enjoys a positive natural population growth despite the fact that the country’s birth rate is not very high. This refers to the fact that the birth rate is still higher than the death rate (see Table 2). In the period from 2002 to 2015, the number of births was 161,013 more than the number of deaths.

Table 2:Birth Rate, Death Rate and Natural Growth in Georgia (Thousand People)

Year

Birth Rate

Death Rate

Natural Growth

2002

10.7

10.7

0

2003

10.7

10.6

0.1

2004

11.5

11.3

0.2

2005

10.7

9.9

0.8

2006

10.9

9.6

1.3

2007

11.2

9.4

1.8

2008

12.9

9.8

3.1

2009

14.4

10.6

3.8

2010

14.1

10.7

3.3

2011

12.9

11.1

1.8

2012

12.7

11.0

1.7

2013

12.9

10.8

2.1

2014

16.3

13.2

3.1

2015

15.9

13.2

2.7

Source: National Statistics Office of Georgia

Despite the positive natural growth balance from 2002 to 2015, Georgia’s population decreased by 658,000 due to migration. Emigration is a prevalent trend in low-income countries. According to the 2015 Report of the United Nations, from 2010 to 2015, a total of 16 million people migrated from low and medium-income countries to high-income countries. The same Report depicts that a total of 309,021 people left Georgia from 2000 to 2005, about 289,538 people left from 2005 to 2010 and 296,323 people left from 2010 to 2015. A total of 894,882 people emigrated from Georgia in the period from 2000 to 2015.

It is possible to significantly decrease the rate of a population’s decline in numbers by lowering the number of emigrants leaving the country as well as increasing the birth rate and the estimated life expectancy. Life expectancy refers to the average number of years that a person lives. The increase in the average life expectancy facilitates the growth of the population as it decreases the death rate.

According to the data of the National Statistics Office of Georgia, the estimated life expectancy in Georgia is 72.9 years. It should also be noted that the estimated life expectancy in Georgia was on the increase from 2009 to 2013 but began dropping in 2014 and 2015.

Table 3:Estimated Life Expectancy in Georgia, Year

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

Life Expectancy

74.2

73.6

74.4

74.5

74.7

75.2

72.9

72.9

Source: National Statistics Office of Georgia

Another factor which has a potential to negatively affect the number of Georgia’s population are the changes in the age structure of the population. The ratio of elderly people to young people is changing in favour of the elderly as the birth rate in Georgia in the 1950's and 1960's was much higher than in the past couple of decades. This is called the aging of the population.

There were about 658,000 pensioners in Georgia in 2008 whilst this number has increased to 713,000 in 2016. If life expectancy in Georgia does not increase significantly, the aging of the population will facilitate the growth of the death rate which will decrease the natural population growth. A drop in the natural population growth, on the other hand, will negatively influence the number of Georgia’s population.

The single most important reason for the decrease in the country’s population is emigration which is due to Georgia’s unfavourable economic conditions. Georgia is not an exception to the rule as people from low-income countries tend to migrate to high-income countries all around the globe.

The Government of Georgia is trying to slow down the drop in the population decline by encouraging new births through social programmes; however, this approach is not very effective. The data of the United Nations (see Table 4) show that a high birth rate is rarely due to encouragement from the government or good economic conditions. Furthermore, Georgia has a positive natural growth rate at this moment.

Table 4:Countries with the Highest and Lowest Birthrates

Highest Birth Rate

Lowest Birth Rate

Country

Per 1,000 People

Country

Per 1,000 People

Niger

49.8

Japan

8.3

Angola

46.2

Germany

8.3

Chad

45.9

Portugal

8.5

Mali

44.4

Italy

8.6

Burundi

42.2

Malta

8.9

Somalia

43.9

Greece

8.9

Uganda

43.7

Bosnia-Herzegovina

9.1

Gambia

42.8

South Korea

9.2

DRC

42.6

Singapore

9.3

Burkina Faso

40.1

Spain

9.3

Source: 2015 Population Division Data of the United Nations. Data from 2010 to 2015

It is also worth noting that even if Georgia manages to increase the country’s birth rate through social programmes, its population will still decrease if economic conditions are not improved as a significant part of the adult population will still emigrate. The growth of the birth rate without economic development will only result in the growth of the number of those originating in Georgia and not the growth of the population of Georgia. It should also be pointed out that the social programmes mentioned above are funded from taxpayer money which negatively influences the economic growth of the country.

After balancing the decrease in a country’s population, the single most important way of ensuring its growth is by increasing its attractiveness which is mainly determined by economic factors. If Georgia manages to accomplish this, not only will fewer people emigrate from Georgia but a part of those who have already left the country will come back. In addition, Georgia would become attractive to citizens of other countries as well.


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