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Greece’s Population Shrinking at Alarming Rate: Not Enough Babies

Αssociated press

In this Thursday, May 18, 2017 photo an elderly man walks during a rainfall in central Athens. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

ATHENS - There is yet another warning about the implication of Greece’s falling birth rate that will put enormous financial pressure on an already-strained economy trying to recover from a more than 8 ½-year long crisis and still struggling, despite harsh austerity.

Greece’s population feel some 360,000 in the last seven years and is projected to drop by a further 770,000 people over the next 12 years if birthrates remain at today’s levels, according to recent data collected by experts at the National Center of Social Research (EKKE) and a special parliamentary committee on demographics and social affairs.

The population could be cut in half from today’s 10.77 million - including more than one million migrants - is nothing is done to reverse an exodus of people who fled the crisis, and the low birth rate, the report signaled.

Many of those who left, creating a so-called “Brain Drain,” were among the country’s most talented entrepreneurs and young who were also held down by a system promoting political favorites instead of being based on merit, critics have said.

As a result, Greece’s workforce will shrink even further and analysts fear this will have a devastating impact on the economy and the country’s already severely burdened social insurance system.

Successive Greek governments, including the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras who promised to help put people back to work and help the young have done essentially nothing to help.

GOING DOWN

Without a policy on demographics, analysts said handouts to families isn’t enough to slow the population decline and called on the government to form a force that would come up with recommendations.

The only attempt at tackling the issue was the creation in 2005, on EKKE’s urging, of the Institute of Demographic Policy – under the auspices of the Health Ministry – but it was never implemented.

The Greek population is decreasing for the first time since WWII, the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV) said in a bulletin earlier in December, noting that the population in Greece had been increasing steadily before the crisis due to immigration and the consumption boom of the 2000s, yet these factors had masked the fact that, in real numbers, the difference between deaths and births had been negligible since the late 1990s. Then, during the years of the crisis, everything changed and births plummeted by 29,380 between 2009 and 2017. This reduction was roughly the same as that experienced by the country during the 1940s, when the number of births fell by 30,000. As a result of this sharp drop, according to SEV, the population has been decreasing.

“It could prove temporary or be reversed as the economy begins to pick up,” the bulletin continued. If the population does not recover, however, “all the children that weren’t or won’t be born will be missing from the workforce of the 2030s and 2040s and this will mire the country’s potential for growth.”

Greece has a duty to reverse the demographic decline, the bulletin concluded, something that can be achieved through rethinking the country’s priorities in terms of its fiscal and migration policies.