The population in Greece has started to is decreasing in absolute numbers since 2010. Deaths now outnumber births. While in 2010 114,766 births were recorded against 109,084 deaths, ten years later 84,717 births were recorded against 131,084 deaths. In our country the reproduction rate is the lowest in Europe and one of the lowest worldwide. While the reproductive stability limit is 2.1 children per woman, in Greece it is 1.3.

The above was stated by the professor emeritus of the University of Piraeus and head of the research group of the upcoming study on the subject of “healthy and active aging in Greece”, Miltiadis Nektarios, during an event on demographics, low birth rates and the aging of the population organized by the Medical Association of Thessaloniki within the framework of the 87th TEF.

“Healthy and active aging are two of the tools that emerge from analyzing the problem in order to address its consequences. Active aging is related to the increase of the working population, i.e. the workers in society and economy. In Greece, due to aging, this population has started to decrease since 2010, in absolute numbers, and we should mobilize the increase in the employment of working women, working young people under the age of 25 – where we are at the lowest rates in all of Europe – and pensioners. Now there is a need for the older ones to work as well – those who can, of course – because we need them and as the decades pass this will become even more urgent,” said Mr. Nektarios. He also noted that the recent regulation made by the government for the work and taxation of pensioners will help in this direction if the employer side also responds.

Mr. Nektarios spoke for aging tendency not only in the West but also in the “second and third world”. “Imagine,” he characteristically said, “that even China is facing an aging population problem.” “The main reasons for the problem are the … decrease in mortality because medicine has worked wonders in the Western world, sanitary conditions and dietary habits have improved. Life expectancy has also increased. Consider that at the beginning of the 20th century humans lived an average of … 40 years. Today we live to be 85. However, in many societies where these conditions do not exist, life expectancy remains low, around 50 years,” said Mr. Nektarios.

At the same time, he noted that the situation is not reversible because none of the above factors are going to disappear or change and added that “the only way this could be achieved would be through immigration which, however, has a number of other social problems that make it unattainable both in our country and elsewhere. Immigration is a serious tool and because we need foreign labor, we too, and above all the European Union, must get serious and launch very specific actions. In other words, what is happening now in Europe with its immigration policy is completely wrong…. We have to choose the staff of the country with rules and criteria. This is the policy of a country that is not an unripe vine. There should be a systematic method, considering also the geopolitical developments of the next thirty years”.

Ominous scenarios for the population of Greece

The research director of diaNEOSis Faye Makandasis spoke about all the ominous scenarios of the research in relation to the population of Greece emphasizing that the demographic has its roots in older generations because since 1940 we have reductions in the fertility indicators. “If the current conditions and the main factors of the problem do not change, then, as the scholars point out, we will talk about a reduction of the population in Greece by half. At the same time, since the last years of the economic crisis until today, thousands of workers have left Greece, even those of a high educational level,” he noted while mentioning that in our country the percentage of working women is one of the lowest and this must change.

“Greek women have their first child on average at the age of 30.3 years. Almost one in three births in our country is carried out by women aged 30-34 and one in four by women aged 35-39. Greece also has one of the highest percentages of first births to mothers over 40 in Europe (5.3%). This postponement of childbearing and having the first child very naturally reduces the chances of having a second or third child as well. Single-parent families are increasing and more and more women are deciding not to have children at all,” added Ms. Makandasi.

What have other countries with similar problems done?

Speakers at the ISTH debate noted that the impression that poor economic conditions are responsible for this decline is unproven as prosperous economies exhibit low birth rates. However, there are countries such as Sweden and France that have made significant progress and greatly improved fertility rates as they took bold measures to support young couples in social, professional and economic terms. In France, measures such as flexible parental leave have been implemented, which can be from part-time work for a short period of time to a full three-year leave, with the employer paying nothing, and the state providing an allowance (35% of the minimum wage for those who choose a three-year license – about 350 euros per month).

The researchers of the National Center for Social Research (EKKE) in their research on DIANEOSIS come up with a set of proposals which include, among other things, the strengthening of child allowances from the first child, the establishment of a premium for having a child for mothers under 30 years of age ( 2000 euros per child) and the strengthening of maternity allowances. Both the integration of the mother into the labor market and her stay in it are encouraged, as well as the active participation of the father in the upbringing of the child or children. It is also proposed to expand the criteria for the inclusion of children in nurseries, to support Municipalities for the creation of additional infrastructure for nurseries and nurseries (which accommodate children up to 2.5 years of age), but also to introduce new structures, such as the institution of assistant mothers (educated women who look after 4-5 children at home).