Migrants are younger and better educated

In a previous article for Kathimerini (January 16, 2004), we examined immigrants’ contribution to the population increase during the 1990s. This was due both to mass entry into the country and to the number of births being in excess of the number of deaths in the migrant population. In this article, we will examine the basic demographic characteristics of the total population of foreigners living in Greece as well as the educational level of those aged 20 and over as compared to those of Greeks, as classified by sex and age group. The data used derive from a series of tables sent by Greece’s National Statistics Service (NSS) to the European Union’s own statistical service (Eurostat). They provided information on the total permanent population (Greeks and foreigners), as divided by sex and age group, as well as statistics on two groups of foreigners: nationals from EU member states and non-EU nationals. The tables in this article merge these two groups of migrants into one. Based on 2001 census figures, the first line of Table 1 gives the total number of Greeks (first, second and third columns), both male and female, and of foreigners (in the fourth, fifth and sixth columns), again, divided into males and females. In the second line of the table, the last three columns show the percentage of the total population that consists of migrants. The next four lines give a breakdown of the total population (including both Greeks and foreigners) by age group. The last line of the table gives the average age of the population. Table 1 clearly demonstrates that: * Migrants make up 7 percent of the total permanent population of Greece (accounting for 7.7 percent of males, 6.3 percent of females – see the second line of the table). Their demographic characteristics are very different from those of Greeks. More specifically: Older Greeks * Among Greeks, the percentage of the population aged over 65 (both males and females) is greater than the 0-14 age group. Among migrants, over-65s amount to one-fifth of the 0-14 age group (see lines three and four of the table). The difference clearly shows how much older the Greek population is in comparison to that of migrants. * While among Greeks, the population aged 50 and over accounts for one-third of the total population and those aged under 49 less than two-thirds; among the migrant population, over-50s account for one-tenth and under-49s, nine-tenths (see lines five and six of the table). This clearly shows the great importance of the migrant presence and labor to the economy of the country. Again in Kathimerini (November 2, 2003), an article by this writer looked at the average educational level of the population aged 6 and over, comparing the numbers of those who had finished junior high to those who had not. A more accurate measurement of average education level would be to factor in the average number of years spent in education by the population. This would combine the number of people who have completed each educational level with the number of years in education (for example, 20 years for those who have completed a PhD, 16 years for college graduates, 12 years for senior high school leavers and 0 years for illiterates). That allows a number of comparisons, between males and females, Greeks and foreigners, age groups, and so forth. Table 2 gives the level of education of the permanent population of Greeks (in the first three columns) and of foreigners (in the last three columns) aged 20 and over, classified by sex and age group. Again, the figures are drawn from the 2001 census. Table 2 suggests that: * The educational level of migrant men and women together, and that of migrant women separately, of the total population aged over 20, is higher than that of Greeks. That of migrant men is slightly lower (see the last line of the table). In the age groups 20-39, including both sexes, and among men aged 20-44 and women aged 20-34, Greeks have a higher education level. But in all other age groups, the educational level of migrants is higher than that of Greeks, both in males and females considered together and separately. * In the total population aged 20 and over, the educational level of Greek men is higher than that of women, while that of migrant men is lower. In the age groups 20-29 among Greeks and 20-49 among foreigners, the educational level of women is higher than that of men. In all other age groups, the opposite is the case. This shows the progress that has been made by younger women in education. Clearly, that progress started earlier among migrant women than among Greek women. Because foreign workers tend to be younger, they do the heavy manual work that Greeks no longer will. But their high level of education is not being used. Since most will continue to stay and live in Greece, a coherent migrant policy is needed to utilize the high level of education of migrants in the areas of the economy that have the most need of them. (1) Manolis Drettakis is a former deputy speaker of Parliament, minister and professor at the Athens University of Economics and Business.