“Based on the data of the recent census (2021) 50% of the population of our country is concentrated in 4.3% of the territory and 80% in 25.2% (in 1951 the corresponding percentages were 13.4% and 55 .5%). At the same time in 2021 at the level of Municipal Units, 277 out of 6,138 (i.e. just 4.5% of their total) gather 80% of the population, while 23 of them have densities of over 10,000 people/sq.km. and 4 that exceed 20,000 people/sq.m. (in 1951, at the corresponding level, 2,179 out of 5,795 OTAs – 37% of the total – gathered 80% of the population and only 8 had densities of more than 10,000 people/sq.km”. These are some of the facts and conclusions mentioned in the 46th issue of the “Demographic News” series on “Demographic Inequalities and National Action Plan”, a digital bulletin of the Demographic and Social Analysis Laboratory of the Univ. Thessaly.

The extremely uneven spatial distribution and intense urbanization are only one facet of the existing inequalities. The authors of the article (professors Byron Kotzamanis and Vassilis Pappas who collaborate within the framework of the ELIDEK-funded research program “Demographic Projects in Research and Practice in Greece”, give three more examples of demographic inequalities: the strongly differentiated population change between the last two censuses, the highly differentiated natural balance (birth rate to deaths) in the pre-epidemic period, as well as the significant deviations of the prefectures from the national average in terms of demographic aging.

In particular, the two authors, analyzing the data of the latest censuses, focus on its changes between 2001 and 2021 both at the national and regional level. They state in their study that while the population decreased by 3.1% at the national level, the deviations from this average are shocking as at the level of Municipal Units (MUs) the range of changes ranges from -33% to +19%. In order to highlight the significant spatial differences, they also cite some interesting data, as in 62.5% of the D.E the reduction was greater than 5%, in one in two (493/1034) greater than 10% and in one fifth (1 /5) even greater than 20%! Examining the natural balance in the six years prior to COVID-19 (2014-2019), they report that, while at the national level there were 1.3 deaths per birth, in the Municipal Units we had from 0.5 to more than 16: in 38% of D.E had more than 3 deaths/birth, in a quarter (1/4) more than 4 and in 18% more than 5 deaths per birth! However, significant inequalities are also recorded in the aging population. The researchers, based on ELSTAT’s estimates at the prefecture level for 2020, find that, while at the national level the percentage of those aged 65 and over is 22.5% and that of those aged 85 and over is 3.6%, however, under these national averages hide significant differences here too: while at the national level the 65 and over population make up 22.5%, 10 prefectures are “in the lead” with 28%, while in two of them the proportion even exceeds 30% (the percentage i.e. of 65 and over in these two prefectures is already in 2020 higher than expected at the national level in 2050, i.e. after thirty years). The examination of the end of the specific gravity of those aged 85 and over to those aged 65 and over highlights another dimension, that of “aging within aging” as if in 2020, at the national level, a little less than 16 people aged 85+ correspond to 100 people aged 65+, in 15 prefectures with a total population approaching one million in 2020 (9% of the total on 25.5% of the surface) correspond to more than 18, and in four of them (Lakonia, Arcadia, Phocis and Evrytania) more than 20. These four prefectures, the two authors report, have already exceeded the expected ratio at the national level for 2050 30 years earlier, while another 11 are expected to surpass it very soon. We are therefore headed for an explosive combination of “aging” and “super-old age” in more than 1 in 4 counties of our country, with the result that soon (well before 2050) we will have a group of counties where 1/3 of their population will be are 65 years old or older, while at the same time 1/4 of them will be “super-aged”. Speaking to APE-MPE, Mr. Kotzamanis emphasizes:

“The discussion around ‘demographics’ usually focuses on developments at the national level and we are little concerned about significant, at lower levels, deviations from national averages. A “National Demographic Plan”, however, should not only take into account all its components, but also important spatial differences.

Regardless of how much our population declines by 2050 (from 5% to 10%, depending mainly on the immigration balance, with almost 1/3 being 65 and over), the rates of decline will be much higher in a large part of mainland Greece from those of the metropolitan areas of Athens and Thessaloniki, as well as the other major urban centers (and, apparently, also from those of the northern part of Crete and the islands of the South Aegean). This will lead, if immediate measures are not taken, to the further depopulation of a large part of the territory and to the acceleration of its aging (in percentages of elderly people much higher than the national average). Any improvement in fertility (i.e. the increase in the average number of children in the younger generations), even if achieved, will not prevent the rapid decline in the population of many municipalities, as the absence of young people will not allow the decline in births to be halted and the increasing aging increasing deaths. We will thus have more and more deaths per birth, and no immigration balance, no matter how positive, is going to stop the declining course of many municipalities in our country, with all that this entails for our building, social and territorial cohesion”