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Turkish Society


Population of Turkey

In 2005 the estimated population of Turkey was 69,661,000. The growth rate, which has decreased sharply in recent decades, was about 1.1 percent per year. In 2000 some 65 percent of the population was classified as urban (compared with 27 percent in 1960), and the process of urbanization is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. In 2005 overall population density was 90.4 people per square kilometer. About 25 percent of the population is concentrated around the Sea of Marmara. The fastest rate of growth is in the southeast, which in 2003 accounted for about 10 percent of the total population. In 2005 immigration and emigration rates were equal.

Population Growth of Turkey

Demography of Turkey

In 2005 some 26 percent of the population was 14 years of age or younger, and 6.7 percent was 65 or older. The birthrate, which has declined significantly in recent decades, was 16.8 births per 1,000 population. The fertility rate was 1.94 children per woman. The death rate was 5.96 deaths per 1,000 population, and the infant mortality rate was 41 deaths per 1,000 live births. Life expectancy, which has increased rapidly since 1960, was 69.9 years for males and 74.9 years for females.

Ethnic Groups in Turkey

Approximately more than 85 percent of the population is Turk, and an estimated 10-13 percent is Kurd and Zaza. Smaller minority groups include Arabs, Armenians, Greeks, Jews, and Dönme (a small, separate group of Muslims, concentrated in Edirne and Istanbul, whose forbears converted from Judaism). In recent decades, the Armenian, Greek, and Jewish populations have declined steadily.


Turkish in Turkey Azeri Turkish in Azerbaycan and Northern Iran Afshar Uighur Turkish Uzbek Turkish Yellow Uighur Salar Balkar Turkish Dolgan Turkish Yakut Turkish Altay Turkish Khakassian Turkish Karagassian Turkish Shorian Turkish Afshar Turkish Gagauz Turkish Kashgay Turkish Trukmen Turkish Turkmen Turkish Khalaj Turkish Khorasan Turkish Crimean Tatar Turkish Braba Tatar Turkish Bashkir Turkish Kazak Turkish Tatar Turkish



The official language is Turkish (Kurdish, Arabic, Armenian, and Greek also are used). The Latin alphabet has been in use since it superseded the Arabic alphabet in 1928.

Beliefs in Turkey

Majority of the population is Muslim, mostly Sunni and Alevi. Christianity (Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic) and Judaism are the other religions in practice. There are also significant number of Atheists. Beginning in the 1980s, the role of religion in the state has been a divisive issue, as influential factions challenged the complete secularization called for by Kemalism and the observance of Islamic practices experienced a substantial revival. In the early 2000s, Islamic groups challenged the concept of the secular state with increasing vigor after the Erdoğan government had calmed the issue in 2003. The Alevi community, a group of Muslims, makes up 10–25 percent of the population.

Education and Literacy in Turkey

In 2003 Turkey’s overall literacy rate was 86.5 percent, but the rate was only 78.7 percent for females. Eight years of primary education are mandatory between the ages of six and 14, and in 2001 the enrollment of male students of those ages was nearly 100 percent. Female enrollment was substantially lower in some rural areas. Three or more years of secondary education are available in general, open, and vocational high schools. Islamic Imam Hatip secondary schools expanded rapidly and achieved elite status in the 1990s, but the government has discouraged them since the late 1990s, and their popularity dwindled in the early 2000s. The high-school dropout rate in Turkey has been high compared with Western countries. Below university level, about 95 percent of students attend public schools, but inadequacies of the public system increasingly motivate middle-class parents to seek private education. The public program generally needs curriculum updates and suffers from over-reliance on rote memorization and standardized examinations. Teachers are poorly trained and paid, and classes are large. Rural schools generally are poorly equipped. In 2001 some 1,273 institutions of higher learning were in operation. Except for the Open University, entrance is by national examination, which limited university attendance to about 18 percent of the population in 2002. In 2004 the state budget allocated US$ 6.7 billion, about 6 percent of total expenditures, for education.

Health Care System in Turkey

Health care in Turkey is dominated by a centralized state system run by the Ministry of Health. However, in 2003 the governing Justice and Development Party introduced a sweeping health reform program aimed at increasing the ratio of private to state health provision and making health care available to a larger share of the population. In its initial stages, the reform program has encountered significant opposition. At 3.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2001, Turkey’s public expenditure on national health was substantially below average for a developed country. In the early 2000s, about 63 percent of health expenditures came from public sources. In 2003 there was one doctor for every 700 people, one nurse for every 590 people, and one hospital bed for every 400 people. The rural population is poorly served by the health-care system, which is much more developed in the western half of the country. Between 80 and 90 percent of the population, including self-employed workers, have health care provided by the national pension system, but the low quality of care encourages the use of private health providers in urban areas. Although the private health industry has grown rapidly since the 1990s, only about 2 percent of the population, mainly in urban areas, has private health insurance. In 2005 about 75 percent of private health expenditures were out-of-pocket rather than being covered by insurance.

The most frequent causes of death, in order of frequency, are infectious and parasitic diseases, cancer, heart disease, and cerebrovascular diseases. Since the 1980s, the occurrence of measles, pertussis, typhoid fever, and diphtheria has decreased sharply because of improved availability of potable water. More than 80 percent of one-year-olds received inoculations against childhood diseases in 2004. Between 1980 and 2004, the infant mortality rate decreased by 65 percent. In 2002 an estimated 1,515 adults in Turkey were infected by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV); more recent statistics are not available. Reportedly, in 2002 sexual activity was the cause of 58.4 percent of HIV cases, and drug abuse was the cause of 6.9 percent of cases. No cause is given for the remaining cases; commercial blood donation has been abolished in order to eliminate that cause of HIV transmission.

Welfare System in Turkey

The state welfare and pension system provides health, welfare, and pension payments to a large majority of citizens. The Social Insurance Law prescribes maternity, illness, on-the-job injury, retirement, and death insurance for all workers except those in agriculture and those who are self-employed. Self-employed workers, including those in agriculture, receive similar coverage under the Social Security Organization for the Self-Employed. In 2000 compulsory unemployment insurance was added to the coverage of the existing law. In the early 2000s, reforms were introduced to make Turkey’s system comply more fully with European Union standards. In 2002 a voluntary private pension system was established as a supplement to the mandatory state system. Contributions in the private system are invested in personal retirement accounts, making pension payments dependent on account performance. However, in 2005 mandatory social security contributions remained high, equaling one-third of gross salaries. In 2003 an estimated 29 percent of Turkey’s population lived below the poverty level, which was about US$ 130 per month for a single individual. However, the poverty rate was disproportionately high in the population of the rural east.









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