Almost 80 percent of young Armenians surveyed in a recent poll say they’d leave their country if they get the chance, with 36 percent saying they’d leave for good. Their desire, uncovered by the Armenian chapter of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), jives with other recent research, and further stokes long-standing survival fears within Armenia.
“It is clear that the migration process poses risks for our country… by taking away young people, who are full of energy and are in their reproductive age,” said Gagik Hayrapetian, UNFPA’s assistant representative in Armenia, speaking at an August 12 news conference dedicated to International Youth Day.
In 2012, 49,600 Armenian citizens left the country of 2.97 million people for good, according to official data, but many locals speculate that the real number could be still higher. Coupled with one of the world's lower birth rates, high numbers of young people longing to seek greener pastures abroad may not augur well for the future, many Armenians fear.
The poll questioned 1,200 Armenian citizens between the ages of 18 and 30.
Many young Armenians are pessimistic about their education or career options at home, according to the findings of a report by the Armenian UN Association. Their strong desire to study abroad creates fertile soil for an eventually permanent emigration, the report found.
While Armenia's struggling economy is often considered the main cause of migration, the report argues that many other factors come into play, too, including marriage.
Armenians, who tend not to get married before they hit 30, tend to be less enthusiastic about tying the knot. Economic considerations are the main stopper for men, while women tend to be more concerned about what marriage could mean for their ability to live their own lives. Counter to traditional norms, a growing number of women are saying that career matters more for them than starting a family and that after marriage they would not want to live with their parents or in-laws.
While the Armenian government long has struggled with these trends -- its population numbers are considered a toss-up for accuracy -- little progress appears to have been made. A poll run this spring by Gallup found that 40 percent of a less age-specific Armenia-based sample also wanted to leave the country for good.
While this latest sample size is relatively limited, it points to a trend. How to reconcile such findings with what prospects Armenia can realistically offer the young -- eventual closer integration with the European Union, for instance -- should prove a topic to keep officials up late at night, analysts say.