“Danger signal”: In the next decade fewer births than ever


From 1.545 million births in the decade 1956-1965 we are expected to have only 835 thousand in the decade 2016-2025 – only 31% of births will be to mothers under 30

The demographic problem of Greece remains in the news with concerns centered on the limited number of births and the decades-long low annual fertility rates, births and rates that, compared to those of the first post-war decades, show significant changes.

An interesting reference to some of these indicators is made in the recent issue of the “Flash News” series on “Births and fertility of the generations in Greece, yesterday and today”, a digital bulletin created in the context of the ELIDEK-funded (and implemented from the ELKE of the University of Thessaly) Research Program “Demographic Projects in Research and Practice in Greece”.

The authors of this issue (Demography professors at the University of Thessaly and the Athens University of Economics, Byron Kotzamanis and Anastasia Kostakis, respectively) with the data they quote from the research show them how from 1.545 million births in the decade 1956-1965 we are expected to have only 835 thousand in the decade 2016-2025 and how from 2.25 children per woman in the generations born around 1930, we will have fewer than 1.5 children in their granddaughters, the women born around 1985. The two researchers report, in particular, that the expected births in the decade 2016-2025 (by 710 thousand fewer than those in the decade 1956-1965) will come mainly from women aged 30-44 (69% of births against 35% in 1956-65) born around 1985.

Annual fertility rates in the current decade they are expected to range around 1,400 children per 1,000 women (700 to 900 fewer children than sixty years ago) and the average age of women at the birth of their children will approach 32 years (4-5 years higher than in the period 1956-1965). The number of women of reproductive age 20-44 in the decade 2016-2025, the two researchers note, (85% Greek and 15% foreigners) is around 1.6 million and does not differ significantly from the number of women of the same age before since sixty years. Births to foreign mothers will make up almost 1/6 of the 835,000 births in the period 2016-2025, out of wedlock 14-16%, while almost one in two of these births will come from consanguineous partnerships. The first births will constitute approximately 48-49% of the total, the second 37-38%, the third 10% and the fourth and above only 4-5%.

The data provided by the researchers gives us a clear picture of the significant changes that occurred between the two compared decades. However, the differences do not only concern the number of births (a decrease of 710 thousand and by 46%) and the values ​​of the cross-sectional fertility rates (from 2,300-2,100 children/1,000 women in 1956-65 to 1,450-1,350 children/1,000 women in 2016-2025). The average age at having children has increased, the specific weight of out-of-wedlock births has increased tenfold, and a significant part of both total births (almost one in six) and fourths and above now come from foreigners.

At the same time, only 31% of births will come from mothers younger than 30 (65% in 1956-65) while third and above births will make up 14-15% against 26% in 1956-1965. Thus, based on the data they cite, it is concluded that the 46% decrease in births between the two aforementioned periods is not due to fewer women of reproductive age in 2016-2025 compared to those in 1956-1965. It is mainly due to the decrease in fertility, i.e. the number of children born on average in the decades 1956-65 and 2016-25 by the generations of women who were in the main reproductive ages in those two decades.

Also of interest are the additional data cited by the two researchers, which allow us to understand why, from an average of 2,250 children born to the 1,000 women born around 1930, this number dropped to 1,450 in their granddaughters, the women born around 1985. This decrease (800 children less) is mainly due to two reasons: 1) the increase in the percentage of women who did not – or will not – give birth to a child as it is estimated that this percentage from about 15% in women born around 1930 has risen to 24% in those born around 1985, and 2) in the significant reduction in the odds of women who have had one child having a second, as well as the odds of those who have had a second , to make a third. The increase in childlessness rates and the decrease in their chances resulted in almost all post-war generations in Greece not reproducing, i.e. having fewer and fewer children than would allow each woman to be replaced by a daughter. These changes also led to a significant decrease in women with three or more children (350 per 1,000 women born around 1930, 120 per 1,000 women born around 1985, i.e. 230 fewer). Thus, as the two researchers report, even if some “excellent” incentives are given today to the women of the younger generations who have three children, and the percentage of those who will have four or more children from three were to double, this doubling would have little effect on the final number of of children brought on average by these generations as we would only have 35 more children (1,485 per 1,000 women versus 1,450).

And according to what the professor at the University of Thessaly, Byron Kotzamanis, emphasized to the Athenian-Macedonian News Agency, “the recovery of fertility in Greece cannot be achieved: i) if the percentage of women without children stabilizes around 25% in the younger generations , and, ii) if the chances of those who have a first child to have a second (and secondarily those who have had a second to give birth to a third) do not increase.’ According to him, this presupposes “the creation of a favorable environment for the acquisition of the desired number of children and, above all, the removal of the incompatibilities between work and family life – but also the existing intense gender discrimination in private life -, the reduction of the additional costs -direct and indirect- arising from the arrival of a child, the return to workers and in the private sector who have children (or are expecting a child) of whatever advantages the corresponding workers in the public sector have, the possibility housing without a shocking burden on the family budget through a new extensive social housing programme, the rapid reduction of the still very high unemployment rates among young people, the increase of their disposable incomes as well as the limitation of their precarious employment relationships”. However, according to Mr. Kotzamanis, it also requires an effective and expanded welfare state that will – among other things – provide sufficient support and partially remove the pervasive insecurity of the younger generations for the future which, as he points out, is one of the obstacles to the creation of any form of family and the acquisition of as many children as desired.


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