Armenia’s birth rate fell last year despite a sizable increase in the number of marriages, according to the latest demographic data released by the National Statistical Service (NSS) on Wednesday.
It shows that a total of 43,447 children were born in the country, down by 3 percent from the 2010 level. That appears to have resulted, in large measure, from a more than 4 percent drop in marriages recorded in 2010.
Karine Kuyumjian, head of an NSS division on demography, said the number of newly married Armenian couples rose by 10 percent to roughly 20,000 in 2011. With very few children in the country born out of wedlock, the birth rate may well grow this year. It went up slightly in 2010.
In any case, the number of newborn children will remain well below the late Soviet era. It has fallen considerably since the early 1990s due to socioeconomic hardship and the resulting emigration of hundreds of thousands of Armenians.
The official statistics publicized by Kuyumjian indicates a continuing outflow of people , with the total number of Armenians going abroad by air or land exceeding that of arrivals to the country by about 49,000 in 2011. Nevertheless, Kuyumjian claimed that Armenia’s population rose by around 12,000 to 3.27 million. “Border crossings cannot serve as a basis for measuring the size of the permanent population,” the official told journalists.
Government critics and some demography experts, who have long regarded the official population figures as inflated, are bound to dismiss that claim. “I think there is a tendency there to bring real figures as close to a level desired by the government as possible,” Hranush Kharatian, a prominent sociologist, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) on Wednesday.