Advancing maternal age in Greece aggravates demographic problem


Women in crisis-riven Greece are giving birth at an ever later age, aggravating the country's demographic problem with a direct impact on the local labor market, experts told Xinhua on Friday.

A new research published by the University of Thessaly in central Greece indicates that the average age of mothers giving birth in Greece has been much later than in most other European countries, shifting from 26.1 years in 1980 to 31.5 years in 2017.

Dimitrios Karkanis, researcher behind the report, explained that the phenomenon is mainly driven by the need for quality of life instead of quantity of family members, due to changes in social and economic standards.

Statistics from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 2016 also showed that Greece has the ninth highest childbirth age among the 45 states monitored by the organization, with the mean maternal age at the OECD being just over 30 years.

Advancing maternal age also coincides with projections for a shrinking of the Greek population in the long term. A recent report by the Greek parliament's special scientific committee on demography showed that by 2050 Greece's population is set to shrink by between 800,000 and 2.5 million people.

"Women increasingly wish to complete their studies first and consolidate their careers before becoming mothers," said Alexandra Tragaki, associate professor in Economic Demography at Harokopio University, Athens.

She believed that the delay in maternity age has an impact on birth rate too.

"The older a woman decides to give birth the fewer chances it has to be successful, as biologically the capacity to give birth declines after the age of 35," she explained.

The Harokopio University professor also highlighted the increase in the number of women in Greece who choose to freeze their own unfertilized eggs, not for medical reasons, but in order to be able to use them at a later age to give birth.

Crucially for Greece's labor market, the country's population will also be aging rapidly, due to a low birth rate.

The report of the parliament committee estimated that in 2050, there will be a total of 5.7 million people of the working age of 20 to 69, down from 7.1 million in 2015.

The committee also projected that by 2050 the over-65s will account for 30.1 to 33.3 percent of the population, against 20.9 percent in 2015, with a direct impact on the country's social security system.

The average fertility rate in Greece stands at 1.26 children per woman, compared with a European Union average of 1.49 percent.

"This is our main problem," said Tragaki, adding that for a country to keep its population figure stable it needs to have a fertility rate of around 2.1 children per woman.

The committee also cited the departure of young professionals for greener pastures, estimated at about half a million in the last decade, as another factor in the reduction of working age population.