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The Greying of Greece: Population Shrinks, Lowest Since 2001

Αssociated Press

FILE- Children ride their bycicles outside the ancient theatre of Herodes Atticus, in Athens during lockdown measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, on Friday, May 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

ATHENS – A near decade-long economic and austerity crisis and now the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic have brought their toll to Greece, worrying people so much they've slowed having children, deaths continuing to exceed births.

In 2011, a year after the first of what turned into 326 billion euros ($385.57 billion) in three international bailouts that came with attached big pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions, there were 4,671 more deaths than births.

In a report on the phenomenon, Kathimerini noted that the problem is getting worse and fast, putting a crushing burden on the social security system that relies on current workers to pay pensioners, who are living longer.

 In 2020, there were 85,605 births and 131,839 deaths, a deficit of 46,234, or some 10 times higher than only nine years before and will all signs indicating it's going to stay that way, reducing the country's population markedly.

There are 405,000 fewer people in Greece now than 2011 when the population hit its crest of 11,123,000, now at 10,718,000 – it was 10,836,000 in 2001 when Greece was entering the European Union and times seemed bright.

It's been a curious development as Greece, which didn't have a post-WWII baby boom and lost people who left the country for economic and other reasons, still saw the population grow gradually since then up to 2011.

From 7.63 million in 1951, it reached 8.36 million in 1961, 8.81 million in 1971, 9.69 million in 1981 and 10.27 million in 1991, the paper noted. Now it's all turning around in the wrong direction although the New Democracy government has offered a 2,000-euro ($2365.49) bonus for babies to their parents.

The over-65 group that was only 6.8 percent of the population in 1951 is 22.8 percent, a more than 300 percent increase, while the under-14 group has fallen from 28.3 to 14.3 percent and shrinking.

The demographics are depressing for Greece, showing rapid aging due to a number of reasons, including that people are living longer, but fertility rates are low and constant unemployment has kept people living with their parents even past 30 years old, while out of wedlock births are few.