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Journal number 1 ∘ Lela Menabdishvili Nana Menabdishvili Nino Gomelauri


Annotation.  The fact that our population is gradually declining and that the Georgian nation is one of the dying nations is both significant and tragic for the future of the country. Against this background, it is undoubtedly timely to study and research the causes that have brought the country to this state. The following article deals with the consequences of the transformation of socio-demographic behaviour that the family is undergoing. It focuses on the period of the new century (2001-2022). The aim of the article is to show how the transformation of the socio-demographic behaviour taking place within the Georgian family has changed the demographic picture of the country and to highlight the serious character of the demographic situation existing at the present stage. The relevance of the article lies in the analysis of issues related to fertility, reproductive behaviour of families in different social groups; show what kind of influence the postponed marriage has on the decrease in fertility, which has finally brought the nation to the brink of "natural decline". The scientific novelty of the work is the attempt to discuss the peculiarities of the socio-demographic behaviour of the family and its role in the process of depopulation of the nation.

Keywords: fertility,families with few children,reproductive behavior, natural increase. 

Introduction. Since the second half of the last century, and more specifically since the 1960s, the "ethical revolution" has been underway - a cultural shift that has challenged all forms of authority. This laid the foundations for the more individual era of discretion and autonomy. As a result of the "ethical revolution", many societies saw a sharp increase in cohabitation, divorce, and out-of-wedlock births, which in turn made families more diverse. These events gave rise to the provocative hypothesis of the "second demographic transition", put forward in 1986 by two Dutch researchers, Ron Lasthaege and Van De Kaa [Lesthaeghe..1986:9-24]. The aim of this theory was to study the interrelated changes in fertility, lifestyle and marriage patterns that were taking place in many countries of Western and Northern Europe. This theory was provocative at the time because the majority of the controlling demographic circles, including the UN Population Division, believed that these processes were temporary and that the fertility rate would stabilise in the long term around the replacement level. They thought that illegitimacy was a temporary indicator of poverty, which could be reduced by public programmes, etc. Experts disagreed with the idea that fertility could remain low. They were particularly opposed to the idea that low fertility was a fundamental characteristic of developed society, which seemed to imply the instability of this type of society. The authors of the "second demographic transition", on the other hand, explained the current trends as the consequence of the new individual autonomy in society, based on: a sharp change in the values associated with family life and children; a dramatic shift from altruistic to individualistic models, norms and attitudes to marriage; the weakening of the "traditional family" as an institution. Since the theory of the "second demographic transition" was first put forward, we have seen that its authors were right in their predictions. Significant changes have taken place in global demography. It has become clear that these processes have affected the whole of the Western world, Latin America and even the industrialized countries of the Far East (e.g. Japan, Taiwan), where such changes were least expected. Ultimately, almost every society in the world is likely to move towards very low fertility, unless there are some unforeseen changes in the underlying social processes.

Literature review. It is becoming increasingly clear that demographic processes have changed the course of the world. The problem is global and urgent. It is precisely this urgency that has attracted the interest of scientists and researchers from many different countries. The number of such scientists has been growing since the authors of "The Second Demographic Transition": Ron Lasthaeghe and Van De Kaa DJ (Lesthaeghe R, van de Kaa DJ. 1986), the Frenchmen Philip Aries (Philip Aries, 1980) and Louis Roussel (Louis Roussel, 1983), the Hungarians I. Monigl (Monigl L. 1987), A. Klinger (Klinger A. 1984), the Oxford University professor David Coleman (David Coleman, 2020), the former UN Population Fund expert S. Ivanov (Ivanov S., 2002), the Japanese Tsuya (Tsuya, 2006), Raymo, Iwasawa and Bumpass (Raymo, Iwasawa and Bumpass, 2009), Lyman Stone (Lyman Stone, 2020), etc.

The article uses GeoStat data as well as the results of sociological research conducted by the Institute of Demography and Sociology (with the personal participation of the authors) in different periods and among different social groups. The sociological researches were conducted in 2013 - among the population of fertile age; in 2016 - among the Orthodox believers of fertile age; in 2022 - among the fertile population employed in state services.

The description of the research problem. Georgia is a small part of the world, and it is logical that the changes that have taken place have affected it. However, these changes have been quite painful for our country. Demographic issues have been and will always be crucial for any country. The fact that our population is gradually decreasing and that the Georgian nation is in danger of disappearing is both significant and tragic for the future of the country. Georgian demographers (Sulaberidze A., Tsuladze G., Totadze A., Shelia M., etc.) are not the only ones to draw attention to the harsh demographic situation in Georgia. According to the forecasts of the United Nations Population Fund, Georgia will face a demographic catastrophe by 2050. According to research conducted by the UN's Economic and Social Affairs Division, by 2025 Georgia's population will have shrunk to almost 3 917 000 people, while by 2050 it will be 2 985 000. According to GeoStat, the population of Georgia on 1 January 2022 was 3 688 600, which is lower than the UN forecast for 2025. The 2014 general census showed that the country's population (3 713 800) was even then below what the UN predicted for 2025. If the steady decline in the country's population continues, by 2050 Georgia's population will be much smaller than originally projected, and a demographic catastrophe will be inevitable. For Georgian scientists and demographers, as well as for Georgian society as a whole, it is crucial to know what our country will look like in a few centuries' time. Will the majority of the population still be native Georgians, or will Georgia be populated entirely by foreigners?

A strong family means a strong state. As a result of globalization, new social and demographic values encouraged society to become more tolerant of new forms of behaviour. The "progressive" thinking of society dealt a heavy blow to the family. Significant changes in socio-demographic behaviour took place within the Georgian family. The number of registered marriages decreased, while the number of those who had never been married increased, the average age of spouses increased, while the duration of marriages decreased and the number of divorces increased, which accelerated the transformation of reproductive behaviour. The cases of couples living together outside legal marriage facilitated the creation of alternative family forms and increased the number of births outside marriage. All this had a significant impact on the reduction of the reproductive period and fertility.

The aim of the article and innovation character. The aim of the article is to show to the wider public how the transformation of the socio-demographic behaviour of the Georgian family has changed the demographic situation of the country and has brought to light the serious character of the demographic situation existing at the present stage. The aim of the article is to analyse: issues related to fertility, reproductive behaviour of families in separate social groups; its aim is to show what kind of impact postponed marriage has on the decrease of fertility. The latter favours an increase in the level of "natural decline" and ultimately leads to a reduction in the size of the population. The discussion of these issues in the following article serves one main purpose, which is to show the impact of the peculiarities of socio-demographic behaviour on the question of depopulation.

Relevance of the article. The problems presented in the article are rather urgent for the country. According to their urgency, separate issues are regularly published in various scientific publications. The scientific value of the article lies in the following steps: a) analysis of the most recent statistical data, b) comparative analysis of the results of various sociological researches conducted by the authors, c) examination of the latest type of population reproduction as the "depopulation type", d) validation of the integrity of the demographic forecast for Georgia.

Demographic processes are closely connected with the local and global events. Today, the world is facing serious challenges. Unfortunately, in our new century we are still forced to talk about annexation and occupation. The occupation, which is in no way justified, is still claiming the lives of many peaceful people, including children. This undoubtedly has a negative impact on demographic processes.

The main results of the research. The crude birth rate gives a clear picture of the level of fertility in Georgia - the number of births per 1000 people. This fertility rate was highest in 2014, when it reached 16.3. The crude births rate in the country is not characterised by stable growth or stable decline. It is a variable quantity, ranging from 11.4 to 16.3 between 2001 and 2022. The lowest rate was recorded in the previous year. 

Figure 1

  Crude births rate (‰)


Source: https://www.geostat.ge/ka/modules/categories/319/dabadeba

The UN, the World Bank, the United States Census Bureau and the Georgian demographer G. Tsuladze [Tsuladze, 2013] have all made predictions about the demographic situation in Georgia. According to all projections, the number of live-born will decrease by 2050. The fertility rate per 1000 inhabitants is fluctuating. Compared to 2010-2015, the fertility rate will be lower in 2050. Judging by today's data, the forecasts have been realised. In 2015, the fertility rate was 15.9 per 1000 inhabitants, since then it has been decreasing every year and in 2022 it will be 11.4. The total fertility rate is considered to be a more accurate indicator of the level of fertility, i.e. the average number of children born to a woman during her lifetime. According to all forecasts, the level of the crude birth rate in the period 2010-2050 will not be able to ensure the renewal of generations in Georgia.

The demographer V. Borisov calculated the number of children necessary for the replacement level of fertility and found out that per one effective marriage there should be an average of 2.6 children, while a married woman should give birth to an average of 2.15 children.[1] This figure is reliable for the number of children needed to avoid depopulation. In reality, a proportion of married couples remain infertile throughout their lives. In order to maintain only replacement fertility, it is essential that families with three or more children account for more than half of the total number of families [Borisov, 1999:257].

Sociological studies confirm that people's attitudes to the optimal number of children in a family vary. This change depends on living conditions, the health of the spouses, their age, the time of marriage, etc. The quality of the religiousness of the spouses, their denomination, must also be taken into account. Sociological researches carried out in different periods within different social groups have shown that the reproductive behaviour tending to have many children is characteristic only for the Orthodox Christian believers (2016). For them, the optimal number of children is close to three or more (3.32 children). Moreover, the number of children in a family is considered to be determined by the Almighty, which does not encourage planning the birth of children. The lowest rate of reproductive behaviour was found in the 2013 survey. According to the respondents, the optimal number of offspring is 3.0 children, but the expected number is 2.4 children, which is lower than the data from all other studies. For respondents who are married and in work (2022), the optimal number of offspring is 2.88 children. In contrast to all the other social groups, the expected number of children is high in the families of the Orthodox Christian believers. This figure exceeds the indicator of the optimal number of children and is 4.05 children. Therefore, the Orthodox believers show a clear tendency to have many children. The same cannot be said of the married and working respondents. Among them, the expected number of children is 2.72. Some of the respondents found it difficult to state the possible number of children. Some of the respondents found it difficult to state the possible number of children. They think that the number of children in the family is determined by such factors as "difficulty in bringing up children", "material condition", "housing problem", "lack of time for family life", "infertility", etc. The number of respondents who already have three or more children or want to have them in the future is 2.7 times higher than the number of those who tend to have few children (1-2 children). Gender equality, i.e. the increase in the proportion of women in the labour force, has limited the time they spend with their families. They are more involved in the 'public sphere' and have less time to devote to family matters. Despite the fact that the trend towards a more equal division of family responsibilities is more acceptable and that men are increasingly entering the "private space" associated with the "real gender revolution", these processes still have a negative impact on the family and the achievement of the desired number of children. When referring to the problems that exist within their own families, respondents highlighted "the lack of time", "the difficulty of bringing up children", "the scarcity of maternity leave", "the inflexibility of working hours", etc. These problems spill over into relationships between spouses and sometimes become the cause of conflict.

It goes without saying that the importance of reproductive health is immeasurable when it comes to increasing fertility. The late expert of the United Nations Population Fund, S. Ivanov, when analyzing one of the characteristic features of the second demographic transition - the decrease in the number of children within a family - focused on reproductive health. According to him, the level of childlessness among women of reproductive age ranges from 5% in Eastern Europe (Bulgaria) to 15% (Russia). In Western and Northern Europe, the level of childlessness is stabilized at around 20% and in Eastern Asia and Southern Europe at 25-30% [Ivanov, 2002]. The World Health Organization estimates that under modern conditions 10-15% of marriages are infertile. In addition, the rate of childlessness among women is 50-70%, while it is 30-50% among men. The situation in Georgia is almost the same. There, 35,000 couples of reproductive age are infertile [Verulava…2015].

Comparing the actual number of children between generations gives a clear picture of the decline in fertility. According to the 2013 research, the generation of respondents had an average of 1.2 children, while the actual number of children for their parents was 2.4 children. In other words, the number of children has been halved within a single generation. According to the research of 2022, the situation regarding the actual number of children has not changed during the past period, if we do not focus our attention on the fact that the number of infertile families has increased. The actual number of children of the respondents is 1.4 children, while the actual number of children of the parents is 2.2 children.

The postponement of marriage and parenthood is associated with the second demographic transition when it is caused by women's search for higher education, career advancement and emancipation. In some cases, however, the postponement of marriage and parenthood is a response to economic stress or the absence of a partner. We will focus on the latter because, despite the significant changes that have taken place in social values, Georgia remains a conservative country loyal to Orthodoxy. Chastity is still respected and honoured here. Thus, the main reason for postponing marriage or remaining single is the lack of a suitable partner, as confirmed by the unmarried respondents (56.5%). In terms of education and career, relatively few interviewees cited this as a reason for postponing marriage. Moreover, there is a significant difference between men (10.0%) and women (28.6%). For the majority of men (43.5%), postponing marriage is a reaction to economic stress.

The respondents indicated 24 years as the optimal marriage age for women, while the same figure is 27 years for men. According to the GeoStat data, the average age of marriage is higher than the age indicated by the respondents.

 Table 1 

Mean age of marriage.


All merriage

First marriage

































































Source:  https://www.geostat.ge/ka/modules/categories/323/kortsineba

The increase in the average age at marriage determines the increase in the age of mothers at the birth of the first child. According to GeoStat data, the average age of the mother at the birth of the first child is only available from 2015, when the average age of the mother was 24 years. This rate was lowest in 2009 (23.5 years) and started to increase from the following year. The increased rate was also observed last year. At the birth of the first child between 2005 and 2022, the average median age of mothers was 2.9 years. Only in 2022 did the proportion of live-born children (17.5%) fall to mothers aged 35 and over, which is 7.2% higher than the corresponding figure for 2014 [www.geostat.ge]. As a result of giving birth to their first child at an advanced age, women are unable to fully realize their desired number of children. This in turn affects the fertility rate and ultimately the demographic situation of the country.

Against the background of an increase in the age of marriage and the postponement of childbearing, the country's fertility level is characterised by a decline in the number of first and second children and a tendency towards an increase in the number of third and subsequent children. This process took on a clear character in 2014 and continues today. In 2022, compared to 2014, the birth of the first child decreased by 37% and the second child by 38%. The increase in the number of third and higher order births is connected with the initiative of the Catholicos Patriarch of Georgia, Ilia II, which was voiced in 2007 and implied the baptism of third and higher order births who were personally married by him in the Orthodox Church. This initiative received an enthusiastic response from the population and if we compare the data of 2008 and 2022, we will notice a 69.7% increase in the number of births of the third and higher order.

Since the beginning of the new century, there have been important peculiarities in the quantity of live-born children according to the mother's age. The anomaly in question is the decrease in the number of mothers aged under 35 and the increase in the number of mothers aged 35 and over. To be more precise, the fertility of mothers under 35 years of age decreased by 1.2 times in 2022 compared to 2001, while the fertility level of mothers over 35 years of age increased by 1.6 times in the same period. At the same time, the fertility of women aged 40-44 has increased 1.5 times during the same period. These data speak for the prevalence of postponed parenthood. The latter is linked to the second demographic transition. The massive involvement of women in matters outside the family has led the country to postpone parenthood [Sulaberidze, 2018]. This has reduced the expected number of children. As the Georgian demographer Paata Gugushvili points out, the need to have children is one of the universal values in human history. It is a permanent phenomenon and occupies an honourable place in the system of human moral values [Gugushvili, 1985]. This value determines the fact that women do not negate the birth of children, but they try to postpone the process. This is a serious blow to the demographic situation in Georgia. The main reason for the ageing of the population is the decline in fertility. According to all forecasts, the number of live-born children will decrease in the new century, while the number of people aged 65 and over will increase.

Different regions of the world differ considerably in terms of family and relationship systems. In countries where the nuclear family and the couple family have historically been dominant, i.e. in Europe and 'New Europe', characteristics of the second demographic transition such as the postponement of fertility and the increase in premarital cohabitation were synchronised. In other countries there was no such synchronisation between the increase in premarital cohabitation and the postponement of fertility. In none of the Asian patriarchal societies was there any evidence of an increase in premarital cohabitation. This would have been tantamount to a complete collapse of the centuries-old system of controlled exogamous marriage. Nevertheless, the situation changed from the beginning of the new century.

Attitudes towards the institution of cohabitation are heterogeneous, with a section of the population believing that it is a transitional period before marriage. For many couples, cohabitation is in fact a prelude to marriage, but statistics show that only 50% of them end up getting engaged. The number of those who remain married is the same as the number who would have married without cohabitation. Only 10% of cohabiting couples stay together to the end without ever getting married officially. For these couples, cohabitation is a long-term alternative to marriage without the social institutions that make marriage legal. The high risk of divorce and the complications of cohabitation have a strong influence on this trend towards the de-institutionalisation of marriage, which accompanies the so-called 'vice' families. Cohabitation, unlike marriage, does not involve those firm consensual norms, formalised ties and close relationships that facilitate the sense of commitment in human beings [Cherlin… 1994:359-381].

As cohabitation became more and more widespread and encompassed different segments, it was considered a form of marriage. In this case, it is a form of marriage that is only recognised by a particular society. According to some researchers, cohabitation challenges the institution of the family, since it is no longer a "temporary condition", but rather a "final condition". It is an interpersonal phenomenon in which neither the state nor the church is involved [Gellen…1996].

There are three types of marriage in Georgia: registered, i.e. legally organised, religious marriage and cohabitation. In 2002, according to the third paragraph of the Concordat between the State and the Apostolic Autocephalous Orthodox Church "The State recognises the marriage ceremony performed by the Church as prescribed by law. The data of the state registration of the marriage will be used in legal proceedings". In other words, religious marriages are recorded as unregistered marriages in official statistical documents, just like cohabitation. A large part of the population attaches the greatest importance to a religious marriage because of their emotional attachment to the Church. At the same time, they are aware that only the state registration is valid in legal proceedings. As a result, people often choose two forms of marriage: a legal marriage and a church marriage. This is clearly shown by the results of the sociological study carried out by our institute. 

Table 2

Types of marriage (%)

Types of marriage









Legal and religious






Source: Sociological studies conducted by the Ilia State University’s Institute of Demography and Sociology in 2013 and 2022.  

The study showed that cohabiting couples consider themselves to be 'married', but stress that their marriage is not officially formalised. For them, it is a family without any legal or ecclesiastical formalisation, which lasts for five years or more and in many cases produces children together. This is the alternative form of family that has been recognised by society.

As mentioned above, only legally registered marriages are recorded in Georgian statistics, and all other forms are included in the category of unregistered marriages. This poses serious problems for the recording of out-of-wedlock births. The latter group includes children born in religious marriages, as declared by both parents. In other words, their parents live together. Since the beginning of the new century, the share of illegitimate births in the total number of births has been on the increase and reached a record high in 2006 (54.1%). This rate was higher than the corresponding indicator for children born within a registered marriage. The number of children born in unregistered marriages includes those born by declaration of both parents (44.6%) and those born by declaration of the mother only (9.5%). The proportion of children born in an unregistered marriage increased in 2006 for each age group of mothers. The highest rate is for women under 25, which is mainly due to the high proportion of married couples who were only married in a church. Such marriages, as we have already noted, are recorded as unregistered.

Table 3 

live-births by legitimacy status



Within out wedlock (%)

According to the declaration of mother (%)


46. 620




46. 063




55. 230




59. 249




46. 520




42. 319



Source:  https://www.geostat.ge/ka/modules/categories/319/dabadeba

The children born to the declared mother are in fact the children born out of wedlock whose parent is considered to be a single mother. During the new century (2001-2022), a total of 39,205 children were born to single mothers, an average of 1782 children per month. Single motherhood, when a woman has never been married, is unacceptable according to our beliefs and cultural traditions. Such behaviour has been considered shameful for centuries, but the studies confirm that society's attitude towards this issue has changed drastically. So much so that the practice is not only justifiable, but also accepted by society. What is more, society's tolerance of the practice is increasing over time. If in 2013 single motherhood was justified by 67.6% of the population, by 2022 this figure had risen to almost 80%. We believe that every woman has the right to become a mother. Single motherhood is a global issue. Out of every ten children in the world, four are born to unmarried mothers. Mothers under 30 gave birth to almost two thirds of the children. Today, one out of every four children under the age of 18, about 13 million in all, is growing up without a father. According to the statistics, almost half of the world's single mothers (51.4%) have never been married. Almost a third (29.3%) are divorced and 19.2% are separated or widowed [https://singlemotherguide.com/single-mother-statistics/].

When discussing fertility issues, it is necessary to review the natural increase. It would be more appropriate to speak of "natural decline" when referring to natural growth in Georgia, as the country is in fact undergoing such a process.

Figure 2

The natural increaserate (‰)


Source:  https://www.geostat.ge/ka/modules/categories/321/bunebrivi-mateba

Essentially, according to all prognostic calculations, the quantity of the population will decrease due to the excess of deaths over the quantity of live-born children. According to the forecasts (UN, World Bank, United States Census Bureau), the quantity of "natural decrease" will take on a runaway character. In the years 2045-2050, the "natural decline" will average 20-23 thousand per year.

Conclusion. The demographic situation in our new age is a cause for concern. The fundamental change in socio-demographic behaviour within the family has led to depopulation. As a result of the new individual autonomy that has been established in society, we have witnessed a sharp shift in the values of family life and children. A child as a primary value retains its importance and the need to have children is still present, but the desired number of children has decreased. The level of the total fertility rate (TFR) in Georgia no longer reflects the process of generational renewal.

Firstly, the number of mothers under 35 years of age is decreasing and the number of mothers over 35 years of age is increasing; secondly, the peculiar fertility pattern is manifested by the decrease in the birth rate of first and second children and the increase in the birth rate of third and higher births. Society's tolerant attitude towards single mothers (mothers who have never been married) has encouraged the growth in the number of such mothers. In the new century, an average of 1782 children are registered each year on the basis of the mother's declaration alone. The increase in the number of infertile couples has had a profound effect on the decline in the fertility rate in Georgia. 10-15% of marriages in Georgia are childless.

Sociological studies have confirmed that the reproductive behaviour of the population differs within different social groups. Reproductive behaviour aimed at an average number of children is characteristic only of Orthodox Christians.

The actual number of children between the two generations - parents and children - has decreased from 2.2 to 1.4 children, which is insufficient for the replacement fertility of the population. The level of fertility in the country is so low that we are actually witnessing a natural decline.


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[1] . Effective marriage is the type of marriage that exists throughout the reproductive period and has the ability to produce offspring for the duration of that period.