“In our country, the downward trend of births started in the 1980s and continues – albeit with fluctuations -, while the increasing trend of deaths started much earlier, from the beginning of the first post-war decade.”

These are some of the facts and conclusions mentioned in the latest issue of the “Flash News” series, a digital bulletin created in the context of the “Demographic Projects in Research and Practice in Greece” funded by ELIDEK and implemented at the University of Thessaly Research Program.

The author of this article, the professor and scientific manager of the aforementioned program Byron Kotzamanis, referring to the deaths, emphasizes that “in our country, while in 1951-60 there were 580 thousand deaths, in 1991-2000 we had 980 thousand, and 2011-20 1.2 million (120 thousand per year on average) while in 2021 and 2022 they exceeded 141 thousand due to the corona virus.

Deaths, he says, have been rising steadily since 1950, even though mortality is declining, for one reason only: the 65-and-over population has grown rapidly, from 520,000 in the early 1950s to 2.4 million today. (they multiplied i.e. by 4.6 while the total population by only 1.4).

On the other hand, the number of births after 1980 is decreasing. Births, he notes, are of course temporarily affected -just like deaths- and by unfavorable circumstances (those of 2022, for example, were also affected by the recent pandemic, as 2/3 came from arrests made in the previous year, hence their large reduction by 10% compared to 2021), but their continuous decline is not due to the situation. Their number each year, he says, “depends on the final number of children that couples will have each year, on the age at which they will give birth, and finally, on the number of women of reproductive age.” Mr. Kotzamanis examines these three factors to explain their downward trend.

In Greece, he says, the changes in fertility, i.e. the number of children and the age at which they had them, had a decisive effect on the number of births which, from 1.54 million in 1951-60, decreased to 1.02 million in 1991 -2000 and to 920 thousand in 2011-20. These births, in their majority, come from women born after the mid-1950s. Women of these generations reduced the number of children and at the same time had them at an increasingly older age: 2.0 children in 25.8 years those born in 1955, 1.65 in 27.3 years those born in 1965, 1.56 children in 30.2 years those born in 1975, and just 1.5 children in 31.5 years those born in 1985. however, we should mention, notes Mr. Kotzamanis, that, in the last fifteen years, the fact that the number of women of reproductive age decreased (approximately -450 thousand between 2008 and 2022) had a negative impact.

The author of the article, however, poses – and answers – the question of whether it is possible, in the next few decades, for births and deaths to stabilize at pre-pandemic levels. Regarding deaths, according to him, stabilizing them at the already relatively high levels of 2015-19 (121.2 thousand per year), is unattainable. Those aged 65 and over will increase by 700-750 thousand by 2050 (their number can be estimated with relative precision as it concerns people who are already alive on the one hand and is little affected by immigration on the other) and, even if the chances death rates decrease, deaths will likely rise over the next 27 years to an average of 128,000 per year (3.5 million in 2023-2050).

As far as births are concerned, here too his answer is negative.

Their stabilization – in the absence of a very positive immigration balance – at pre-pandemic low levels (88.5 thousand per year in 2015-2019) is impossible as:

  • j) The number of people of reproductive age will continue to decline,
  • and ii) even if the trend of having fewer and fewer children in younger generations slows and then reverses, these generations should increase their number of children significantly (from 1.5 to 1.9-2.0 ) and, then, to stabilize it at these levels, at the same time slowing down the trend of increasing the average age at their acquisition.

But, even in this extremely optimistic – and somewhat unlikely – scenario which presupposes, according to him, the radical reversal of the not particularly favorable environment for having children, the births of the next 27 years are not expected to exceed 85 thousand per year on average (2.3 million in 2024-2050), resulting in the natural balance of this period being negative by 1.15 million.

Otherwise, in a scenario with slow and limited fertility growth and only a slight slowdown in average childbearing age, births would exceed just 2.0 million (75 thousand per year on average) and the natural balance will be negative by 1.4 million

From the above, notes the author of the article, it is clear that the immigration balance of the next few decades will largely determine the extent of the irreversible population decline until 2050, a decline that will result from the much faster shrinking of small and middle-aged compared to the increase of 65 and over.

Speaking to the Athenian-Macedonian News Agency, the professor of Demography and scientific manager of the Research Program “Demographic Projects in Research and Practice in Greece” Mr. Kotzamanis states that “from a demographic point of view, a significant preponderance of income over expenses in the next decades (possible under the condition that the flight of our young people will be stopped, a part of them will soon return and at the same time we will have the entry and integration of new foreigners) will only limit the decrease of our population.

The entry of new foreigners in particular will limit the negative natural balances as they, due to their youth and relatively higher fertility, will slow down the decline of individuals of reproductive age, slightly increase the fertility of the new generations, and, above all, stimulate births thus slowing down the expected decrease of under-20s (yesterday’s births produce tomorrow’s youth).

But at the same time, they will also limit the expected reduction of people of working age (20-64 years old) and they will also slow down demographic aging (that is, the increase in the specific weight of those 65 and over in the total population)”.