NEWS

Where babies come from

Although surveys by the National Social Research Center have indicated that a family’s income has a major effect on the number of children a couple decides to have, there has not been any research until now on links between regional differences in the birthrate and regional differences in per capita income. The survey described here was aimed at discovering whether a low birthrate in 13 regions of Greece was related to the per capita GDP as measured in purchasing power units (PPU). It was based on data from Eurostat, the European Union’s statistics service, on the GDP in PPUs, and data from the National Statistics Service (ESYE) on the number of births in 1998. The results show the southern Aegean and Crete have the highest birthrates, as regions with the greatest degree of tourist development and with above average per capita GDP in PPU. Third and fifth place go to Attica and Central Macedonia, regions that include the two largest cities in Greece (Athens and Thessaloniki). Not only is the average per capita GDP higher, but there is a larger number of hospitals and health services, which are also of a higher standard, than in other regions. The second and third lowest birthrates, however, are to be found in Epirus and the Peloponnese, regions with the lowest per capita GDP in PPU. Contradictions Two regions, however, that are home to only 11 percent of the population, present unusual demographic and economic characteristics. The region of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace has Greece’s fourth-highest birth-rate despite its below average per capita GDP performance. The high average birthrate, particularly in the prefecture of Xanthi, is because of the higher proportion of Muslims, who traditionally have large families. The opposite is the case in Western Central Greece, which has the lowest birth- rate despite having the country’s highest per capital GDP. This is because a large percentage of the country’s GDP is produced in this region. It does not constitute income for the local population but is exported either as primary produce, manufactured goods or transported to another part of the country. Apart from these two regions, therefore, it is clear that a region’s birthrate is indeed linked to the per capita GDP, although there are obviously other factors involved, such as the age of the population, the percentage of married women of childbearing age, the presence of immigrant families, health services and hospitals, and children’s day nurseries. It is clear that there is need for policies to boost the economic development of the less advantaged regions. Apart from the immediate benefits for the population (such as more jobs and higher living standards), such a policy will also raise the birthrate. Regional development, therefore, would also do much toward solving the country’s demographic problem. ,Manolis Drettakis has served as deputy speaker of Parliament, government minister and university professor. Furthermore, there is little reason to think the euro’s launch will have an immediate positive knock-on effect on wider efforts to promote closer political integration.