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Society

Fewer Students, Shrinking Birth Rate Closing Down Greek Schools

December 28, 2019

ATHENS – With deaths far surpassing births, and an exodus of scores of thousands of people during a near decade-long economic and austerity crisis, Greece’s falling birth rate is leading to the closing of some schools for lack of students.

The newspaper Ethnos said because of low birth rates, the Greek government has decided for the 2019-2020 period to close 14 kindergartens and nine primary schools in 19 municipalities in the region of Attica, whose capital is Athens.

In the 2009-2014 period, 1,705 school units closed in the entire country: 796 primary schools, 509 kindergartens and 400 secondary schools, the report said, showing another offset of the decline in population which has led Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis to say his government would offer a 2,000 euro ($2228.50) baby bonus.

Stavros Petrakis, Secretary-General of the Federation of Secondary School Teachers of Greece (OLME) told Ethnos that the demographic problem is “now at our doorstep,” with ominous indications.

“Thousands of young people are moving abroad, as in Greece they can no longer work and create a family. The government must support motherhood not only with benefits but also with other incentives such as kindergartens, support for new parents, etc,” he said.

In a recent survey, the Foundation for Economic & Industrial Research (IOBE) estimated that by 2035, the total number of pupils in schools will have decreased by as much as 29.2% to 1,050,000, compared to 1,480,000 in 2008.

Greece will be made up mostly of the old and retired by 2050, that scary prospect raised by  Hellenic Association of Geriatrics and Gerontology (HAGG) ahead of the International Day for Older Persons on Oct. 1 which said teens will make up only 12 percent of the population by then, the average age will be 50, said Kathimerini in a report.

In even more dire news, there will be only about 3.7 million workers, little more than a third of the population now, who will be bearing the burden of paying into a sagging social security system that’s already underfunded.

HAGG warned about the impact of Greece’s low birth rate and negative net migration rate while urging authorities to take measures to encourage healthy and active aging without saying what those could be.

In 2016, the birth rate was 8.5 per 1,000 people or about 1.3 per household. The death rate was 11.2 per 1,000 people.

Some 20 percent of Greek women born in the 1970s are likely to remain childless, a level not seen since WWII, the Wittgenstein Center for Demography and Global Human Capital, based in Vienna found in 2017.

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