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Depressing Greek demographics burden the economy

12 July 17 | Vyronas Kotzamanis
Vyronas Kotzamanis

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Demographic trends in Greece - including the latest wave of emigration starting after 2010 - paint a future of dwindling overall population, with an ever-decreasing proportion of working age and economically active individuals, the head of Thessaly University's Demographics and Social Analyses department Prof. Vyronas Kotzamanis told the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA) on Tuesday.

 

"Greece is currently marked by an overconcentration of its population into an extremely restricted section of its territory (the result of successive waves of internal migration in previous decades), the appearance after 2010 of a new wave of flight abroad, especially of young Greeks of reproductive age, that is not expected to stop soon and whose result will be the appearance of a negative migration balance," Kotzamanis said in an interview given for World Population Day.

This trend was further amplified by a low fertility rate and birth rate (90,000 births per year), combined with a high number of deaths (120,000 per year), which again created negative balances that were not expected to reverse over the next 20 years, he added.

These factors would lead to an ageing of the Greek population in coming years, with an increase in the percentage of over-65s and over-85s, combined with an overall population reduction, a shrinking of the working-age population and of the economically active population.

This will in turn impact a number of areas but especially the cost of pensions and healthcare, difficulty in adapting to the new economic environment and an increasingly conservative electorate.

Tracking Greece's demographic history after WWII, Kotzamanis said this was marked by a considerable population increase (from 7.6 million in 1951 to 10.6 million in 2017) as well as a progressive ageing (with a 13.5-year increase in the average age from 30 years in 1951 to 44 in 2017).

This was accompanied by a lower fertility rate and a 13-year increase in life expectancy, as well as urbanisation, with 80 pct of the population currently living in urban areas, especially Athens and Thessaloniki.

The forecasts up to 2050 predict a fairly constant decline in the permanent population and further significant ageing, with the average age increasing 3.7-5.5 years relative to 2015 and the median age (43.95 years in 2015) increasing by 3.7-5.7 years.

In 2035, meanwhile, the average age is expected to have risen between 3.6-4.5 years and the median age by 5.5-7.1 years. This will reflect an increase in the percentage of the population that is over 65 and over 85, respectively (from 21 pct and 2.8 pct to 27-28 pct and 4-4.5 pct) while the percentage of under 20s will fall.

The ageing is forecast to increase further in 2050, when 31-33 pct is forecast to be over 65 and between 6.5 pct and 4.9 pct over 85.

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