Greece expected to be first nation facing ‘population collapse’

Numerous reports from Greece are indicating the country is facing an imminent population collapse as the government scrambles to promote more births.

The National Herald reported that Greece reported the lowest number of births in 2022 in 92 years, with preliminary data in 2023 predicting another drop in births. A Reuters report likewise showed that the situation has become dire; the low birth rate has meant that having children is increasingly expensive, and access to things like pediatric health care is difficult to find.

One man interviewed by Reuters, Army sergeant Christos Giannakidis, said he wanted to have a second child, but couldn’t afford it. “To have a family these days, you need to become a hero,” he said. “To have a second child, more money must come into the house.”

The Greek fertility rate is one of the lowest in Europe, with numerous villages not recording a single birth in years. “If I were to tell you that any given minister at any given ministry … can reverse the trend, it would be a lie,” Sofia Zacharaki, Greece’s minister for social cohesion and family affairs, told Reuters. “[But] We need to keep trying.”

Birth rates have been falling across the globe, with numerous countries instituting pro-family policies in an effort to encourage people to have more children. Yet as Vox pointed out in December, “If history is any guide, none of this will work: No matter what governments do to convince them to procreate, people around the world are having fewer and fewer kids.”

Giannakidis’ son, Nicholas, is the only 13-year-old in his village of Ormenio, located within the Orestiada municipality, where 2/3 of the population is over the age of 70. Giannakidis said he is considering sending his son to study in Germany, and for now, he spends his time playing video games alone.

“We used to gather at weddings, at baptisms. Now we meet at funerals,” 61-year-old Chrysoula Ioannidou told Reuters. “There are very few births.” Thodoris Vasiliadis, a speech therapist, organizes workshops for children to gather from surrounding villages, and said the social isolation is leading to developmental issues. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, meanwhile, has called the falling birth rates a “national threat” and a “ticking time bomb.”

The government has tried to put policies in place to encourage more births, like tax breaks on baby items. “This is one of the most serious problems we face not only in Greece but in the EU as a whole,” Finance Minister Kostis Hatzidakis told Reuters. “It is our priority… whatever it takes.”

Dimitris Rossidis, headmaster for a school in Ormenio, said there are just four children in first grade; the school serves 17 villages.

“The future doesn’t look bright,” Rissidis said. First grade teacher Nektaria Mouropoulou said she wants to have a family, but can’t afford to. “When you’re in your 30s and earning 1,000 euros, of course you’ll think whether to have a family,” she said, and explained that the pro-family policies aren’t enough. “That they’ll give 20 euros for the first child, or 50 or 100, doesn’t solve the problem.”

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