Growing sex imbalance in the Caucasus
Significantly more boys than girls have been born in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia since 1995 as a result of a societal preference for boys, a desire for smaller households and improved pre-natal technology. In the mid-term, this may lead to higher consumer spending, as men have higher incomes than women.
However, with women’s longer life expectancy, the sex imbalance shifts, with older, female-only households often affected by poverty.
Fertility rates (children born per female) dropped in all three countries after the collapse of the Soviet Union as the socio-economic situation deteriorated:
- In Armenia, fertility declined from 2.4 children per female in 1992 to 1.7 in 2009, in Azerbaijan from 2.7 to 2.3 and in Georgia from 1.9 to 1.7;
- In 2009, for every 100 boys aged 0-14 there were only 84.4 girls in Armenia, 84.9 in Azerbaijan and 86.6 in Georgia.
Since abortion laws in the Caucasus are some of the most liberal in the world, it is believed that induced abortions are used to control the sex of the child, especially in second or third births. This trend is not present in other post-Soviet countries.
- Women’s life expectancy at birth is higher than males. Men lead unhealthier lifestyles, with higher alcohol and tobacco consumption and are more prone to work-related accidents. Men constituted only 38.6% of the population aged 65+ in Armenia, 41.3% in Azerbaijan and 39.4% in Georgia in 2009.
Sex imbalances will affect consumer spending patterns and companies who want to target different age groups.
Source: Euromonitor International from national statistics/UN.
Men earn more than women so the sex imbalance will affect consumer spending as well as overall demographics;
- In Azerbaijan, average annual disposable income per capita was US$2,416 in 2009 for men compared to US$1,807 for women. Lower wages and shorter working lives mean that older, female-led households are at risk of poverty;
- Having a family in all three countries is a source of social standing. Men may be forced to emigrate in search of brides, reducing the population further;
- In the medium-term, there may be a shortage of jobs, as men have higher rates of economic activity than women, who have a traditional role at home;
Source: Euromonitor from trade sources/national statisticsNote: Economic activity rate is calculated as a share of economically active population aged 15-64 in total population aged 15-64. Armenia’s rate is based on 2007 figures – latest available.
The sex imbalance will contribute to a decline in birth rates and population. This will create pressure on the labour force and threaten economic growth. Ageing will also be more visible, putting a strain on public spending. For example, the 65+ share of the population will increase between 2005 and 2020 from 4.3% to 16.0% in Georgia.
- The population of Armenia is expected to drop from 3.4 million in 1992 to 3.2 million in 2020 and in Georgia, from 5.2 million in 1992 to 4.4 million in 2020. Azerbaijan’s population will grow in the mid-term as a result of higher birth rates but will also drop in the longer-term;
- Slowing birth rates and sex imbalances at birth will mean a continued imbalance in the working age populations. In 2020 in Azerbaijan, for example, women aged 20-24 will account for 47.8% of the total population of that age-group. However, more men entering the labour market will find it easier to secure employment in the expanding construction, mining and transport sectors;
- In order to address the sex imbalance, the parliament of Azerbaijan started to discuss in 2010 a potential ban on abortions, once the sex of the baby is know.