ATHENS – A near decade of an economic and austerity crisis that drove down incomes, followed by the COVID-19 pandemic and worries about the future that saw many decide against having children is making Greece’s population shrink fast.
The country is losing people at the rate of about 450,000 a decade and becoming older fast, putting a further financial burden on a social security system seeing fewer paying to support pensioners.
Data from the country’s statistical agency ELSTAT showed the trend is accelerating, said Kathimerini, mostly among the young whose numbers are declining rapidly despite the New Democracy government offering 2,000-euro ($2292) bonuses for those having children.
Increasing life expectancy is also adding to the numbers of elderly in a further tilt and it’s getting more unbalanced the paper said, noting that in 1951 people up to 14 years old accounted for 29 percent of the population, compared to only 14 percent today.
The population in Greece in 2001 was an estimated 10.836 million and rose in 2011 to 11.123 million, mainly due to migration in that decade. In 2021 it fell to 10.679 million, the data showed.
The percentage of the population that was over the age of 65 in 2001 was 14.5 percent and by 2011 it jumped to 19.3 percent and in 2021 it reached 22.6 percent, the country graying.
There are now more coffins than cribs with a growing gap between deaths and births since 1998, with 84,746 births in 2021 and 130,669 deaths, the fertility rate in the country at 1.38 per woman, one of the lowest in the European Union.
“By 2050 the number of people over the age of 65 will be above 800,000. Meanwhile, we currently have about 350,000 people over the age of 85 and 2050 this age group will include about 150,000 to 200,000 more people,” Vyronas Kotzamanis, a Professor of demography at the University of Thessaly, told the paper.
He also noted that this means there will be a significant percentage of the population without close relatives to support them, which has been a long family pattern in the country that’s also disappearing.
He recommended some changes to alter the pattern, including jobs for the young who are the key to producing families but with many having given up on that, along with those who fled the country during the economic crisis.
“At the moment 65 out of 100 people in Greece are at a productive age, while in Sweden (this number) is 95,” he said.
He said adding more workers would slow the skew in the wrong direction and provide hope to the young and those who want families that it’s economically feasible for them to do so.