On February 18 of 2020, the population of Uzbekistan reached a milestone of 34 million. Since the beginning of 2020, the population increased by 0.28% from 33,905,799 to 34,002,410. Being the largest country in Central Asia in terms of population, Uzbekistan shows rather a fast population growth. Since 2010, the population of Uzbekistan has been growing on average at 1.80% annually. Moreover, there is a slight acceleration of population growth over time (Stat.uz, 2020).
Uzbekistan is the leader among Central Asian states in terms of absolute demographic growth. For instance, since 2010 the population of Uzbekistan has added more than 5.4 million people. The population increment during the same period in Kazakhstan is 2.4 million people, followed by Tajikistan 1.97 million, Kyrgyzstan 1.05 million, and Turkmenistan 0.91 million people. Thus, Uzbekistan accounted for more than 46% of the absolute population growth in Central Asia over the last decade. It should be admitted though that the large absolute population growth of Uzbekistan is only due to its population size. During 2010-2020, the population of Uzbekistan has grown by 1.80%, which is higher than in Kazakhstan (1.42%) and Turkmenistan (1.76%), but lower than in Kyrgyzstan (1.87%) and Tajikistan (2.40%) (Worldometers.info, 2020).
One of the reasons behind the current demographic growth in Uzbekistan is the dynamics of different age groups in the population. The population growth that Uzbekistan has seen during 2010-2020 was largely due to the active growth of the share age groups of 25-29 and 30-34 in the total population. These age groups are the ones that account for more than half of all births. For instance, during 2010-2020, the combined size of these two age groups has grown by 34.7% whereas the total population of the country has shown an increase of 21.1% (Stat.uz, 2020).
At the same time, the dynamics of different age groups give reasons to expect a significant downturn in the birth rates in Uzbekistan in the next 5-10 years horizon. Currently, the size of Uzbekistan’s population aged from 15 to 24 is about 5.54 million people, which is 12% smaller than the age group of 25-34 (6.2 million people). Within the next ten years, a less numerous age group of 15-24 will gradually replace a considerably more numerous age group of 25-34, bringing down the absolute number of births in the population. This pattern will probably last for the next 15-20 years until the most numerous age group of 0-9 years will start to take effect.
It is important to note, however, that decreasing the number of births will not necessarily lead to a population decline. Uzbekistan´s demographic growth will continue and, according to the latest UN DESA projections, its population is expected to reach 37.4 million people by 2030 (UN DESA, 2019). It is also worth mentioning that Uzbekistan currently outperforms previous projections by nearly half a million.
Although there are large rates of absolute population growth, Uzbekistan’s current percentage population growth is not as high as it might seem to be. As was mentioned earlier, during the last ten years the population of Uzbekistan has grown by 21.1% while the projected medium scenario of population growth for the next ten years period until 2030 is only 11.8%. This is the second smallest demographic growth projection until 2030 among Central Asian states after Kazakhstan, which is expected to have a growth of 9.9%. Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan are expected to grow by 12.5%, 14.1%, and 21.2% within the next ten years (UN DESA, 2019). High but falling natural population growth rates characterize Uzbekistan as a country of the third stage of demographic transition. At this stage the population growth occurs mainly due to low rates of mortality and longer life expectancy rather than high birth rates. This is especially clearly seen in larger time scales. For instance, since the early 1990s, the total fertility rate in Uzbekistan has fallen from 4.0 to 2.4 (World Bank data, 2020a). During the same period, life expectancy in the country has grown from 66.5 to 72 years (World Bank data, 2020b).
Apart from the changing age structure, other fundamental factors determine the demographic trajectory of Uzbekistan in the long run. Urbanization level is one of the key factors in shaping the rate of population growth. Rural environments strongly enhance traditional forms of social organization with extended families and a large number of children, which has a strong demographic effect. 50.5% of Uzbekistan’s population lives in urban areas, which is the second-highest urbanization rate in Central Asia after Kazakhstan (58.8%) (World Bank data, 2020).
It is interesting to note that the current state of demography, and the age structure of the population of Uzbekistan are highly optimal from the economic point of view. With 10.5% of the population above the working age and 30.8% under the working age, Uzbekistan currently has a very large proportion of the working population of 58.7%, which is a factor that facilitates economic growth. A large and increasing number of youth combined with falling fertility rates create great potential for Uzbekistan to reap a demographic dividend.
The revealed demographic data on Uzbekistan includes the population permanently living on the territory of the country or temporarily absent by the moment the data was collected. Therefore, some proportion of nearly 2.6 million of Uzbek citizens in labor migration might not be included in the statistics. This is a very significant share of Uzbekistan’s potential labor force that can make up to one-fifth of its economically active citizens. The government of Uzbekistan recently started to take steps towards retaining the labor emigrants and providing them jobs inside the country. By 2030, the number of labor migrants is projected to reduce to 1.96 million (uz.sputniknews.ru, 2019), which would be a great opportunity for Uzbekistan to take advantage of its demographics.
The current demographic profile of Uzbekistan characterizes it as an example of third demographic transition. In a longer timeframe, this condition provides Uzbekistan with a period of several decades with maximum share of working age population and minimum share of dependent population. In this light, a proper policymaking can turn abundant labor from being an economic burden into a valuable asset, opening new prospects of economic growth.
Stat.uz (2020). Population of Uzbekistan. Retrieved from https://stat.uz/ru/2-uncategorised/5222-o-zbekiston-aholisi-ru. Accessed on 20.05.2020. Accessed on 07.06.2020.
Uz.sputniknews.ru (2019). Uzbek government intends to reduce migration. Retrieved from https://uz.sputniknews.ru/migration/20191008/12576233/Pravitelstvo-Uzbekistana-namereno-umenshit-migratsiyu.html. Accessed on 10.06.2020.
UN (2019). Total Population – Both Sexes. De facto population in a country, area or region as of 1 July of the year indicated. Figures are presented in thousands. Retrieved from https://population.un.org/wpp/Download/Standard/Population/. Accessed on 10.06.2020.
World Bank data (2020a). Total fertility rate. Retrieved from https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.DYN.TFRT.IN. Accessed on 10.06.2020.
World Bank data (2020b). Life expectancy at birth. Retrieved from https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.DYN.LE00.IN. Accessed on 10.06.2020.
Worldometers.info (2020). Population: Central Asia Retrieved from https://www.worldometers.info/population/asia/central-asia/. Accessed on 10.06.2020.
Note: The views expressed in this blog are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the Institute’s editorial policy.
Kanat Makhanov is a research fellow at the Eurasian Institute of the International H.A Yassawi Kazakh-Turkish University. He holds a BA in Business Economics from the KIMEP University from 2012. In 2014 he earned his Masters degree in Economics from the University of Vigo (Spain), completing his thesis on “Industrial Specialization in autonomous regions of Spain and Kazakhstan”. His main research interests are Spatial Economics, Economic Geography, Regional Economics, Human and Economic Geography.