Membership in the European Union continues to chip away at the Greek state, as well as Greek DNA.
The ongoing 8 plus year financial meltdown of Greece is resulting in an alarming decrease of the Greek gene pool, The simple fact is that Greek couples are unable to support a child, leaving many young Greeks opting out of having children.
If not remedied than we could witness a complete breakdown in Greece’s pension system, as well as the disintegration of the Hellenic Republic as a result of the inability to replenish the population.
Fertility doctor Minas Mastrominas tells the New York Times that some women have decided not to conceive, and single-child parents have been asking him to destroy their remaining embryos.
He said: After eight years of economic stagnation, they’re giving up on their dreams.
It isn’t just Greece suffering low birth rates. In fact the trend spreads to most of Europe, with Spain, Portugal and Italy also reporting dangerously low rates.
Indy100 notes that unemployment continues to be a serious issue in Greece…
Rates are slightly lower than in 2016 when they were 23.9 per cent, but are still very high at 23.5 per cent.
The slump has affected women more, with unemployment rates at 27 per cent compared to 20 per cent of men.
Child tax breaks and subsidies for large families have decreased, and the country stands at having to lowest budget in the EU for family and child benefits.
One of the most prominent areas that will be detrimentally affected is pensions and the welfare system.
Additionally, according to Eurostat, such low birth rates – under 2.1 – could create a demographic disaster.
This will have a knock-on effect on pensions, with fewer young people working.
Reduced pensions for grandparents, who traditionally took care of the family’s children means that parents will have to reach into their dwindling budget in order to pay for child care.
All of these circumstances provides an unwelcoming environment for having children, creating a spiraling drop in birth rates.
While dwindling populations threaten all of Europe, “the really serious problem is that some of the weakest countries are the ones with the least favorable demographics,” said Simon Tilford, the deputy director of the Center for European Reform in London. “Lower birthrates in the south will mean weaker growth and productivity, holding the birthrate down and producing more fiscal problems.”
Over time, he added, “it suggests that the already divergent economic performance between Northern and Southern Europe may become structural rather than cyclical.”
The lower birthrates have been aggravated by fiscal pressures that constrained countries from offering robust family support programs. Whereas France offers a monthly family benefit of 130 euros (about $138) per child after the second child, Greece provides just 40 euros.
Countries have recognized the problem and recently snapped into action. Spain appointed a so-called sex czar in February to forge a national fertility action plan and address population declines in rural areas. Italy increased bonuses for having babies and backed labor laws granting more flexible parental leave.
Greece, as the weakest economic link, does not have the same options.
Struggling to manage a recovery after nearly eight years of recession, the government cannot make the fertility drop a top priority. Child tax breaks and subsidies for large families were weakened under Greece’s austerity-linked international financial bailouts. State-financed child care became means-tested and is hard to get for women seeking work. Greece now has the lowest budget in the European Union for family and child benefits.
The impact of EU neo-liberalism has not only affected birth rates in the Southern periphery of Europe…
Demographic challenges are not confined to Southern Europe. Germany has battled a population drop since the 1970s, when higher education and new career opportunities for women lowered fertility rates. After Communism, birthrates in Central and Eastern Europe also fell.
In the new millennium, an economic expansion helped reverse those dynamics. But the financial crisis “hit Europe when birthrates in many countries had just started to rise again,” said Michaela Kreyenfeld of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany.
The impact is evident in communities across the European south, where smaller towns are increasingly hollowed out and schools emptied.
In Tempi, a verdant region in central Greece, many primary schools and kindergartens have closed since 2012 as parents had fewer children and young Greeks left the country, said Xanthi Zisaki, a municipal councilor. Kindergarten enrollment has also slumped elsewhere in Greece and around Spain and Italy.
While migration from small towns is nothing new, “the financial crisis is clearly the problem,” Mrs. Zisaki said. “There are simply fewer children every year.”
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.