We are getting fewer. It’s all in the numbers: Greece’s population dropped by 3.5 percent in 10 years. Data from the 2021 census carried out by the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) show that Greece’s population stands at 10,432,481. Experts have long sounded the alarm. The country is getting older and its population could decline further in the coming decades.
The onset of the trend coincided with the beginning of the 10-year financial crisis. Until the 2001 census, Greece’s population had been growing. In the decade from 1991 to 2001, it actually rose by 700,000 people. The increase can be attributed to the large immigration wave from countries of the former communist bloc. The 2011 census saw the first drop (more than 100,000 people), a trend that evidently continued over the next decade.
The 1990s showed that immigration can play a major role in combating the nation’s aging population. Successful integration is of course key
The data herald a not-so-distant future where Greece will be unable to support a welfare state that can cater for the needs of its elderly population. Efforts to reverse this trend should have already started. The 1990s showed that immigration can play a major role in combating the nation’s aging population. Successful integration is of course key. The inflow of Eastern European migrants showed that, contrary to what skeptics believed, integration policies can be effective.
At the same time, Greece must meet the needs of its skilled young population who leave the country in search of better prospects. What we need is, first, decent, well-paid jobs. Secondly, we need policies that promote affordable housing – high rental costs are an insurmountable obstacle for young couples. We also need meaningful policies to support families, meeting the care needs of children at nurseries, all-day schools etc which reconcile work and family life. There are no magical solutions; however, there are tested ways of dealing with the challenges that are not exclusive to this country. We can draw inspiration from and replicate practices that have worked in other countries. Time is running out. Now that there’s fewer of us, perhaps it may prove easier to reach some agreement on the basic principles.