The old joke exhorted Greeks to «make love or fizzle out.» Now, representatives of large families – a minority in a country where the average couple has 1.7 children – are appealing for government help to boost the birthrate. According to figures made public yesterday by the Greek Association of Large Families (ASPE), in some rural parts of Greece, the birthrate has fallen by over 70 percent since 1980. In all the country’s villages, ASPE said, 36,975 children were born in 1980. By 1999, the figure had fallen 55.1 percent, to 16,606 – including children born to non-Greek couples. «Unless the situation is reversed, there is no hope for the country,» ASPE Chairman Vassilis Theotokatos said. ASPE wants the government to encourage families to have more children by awarding the equivalent of a civil servant’s salary to mothers of four children, and providing better tax, salary, pension and housing incentives.