OPINION

Why Greeks aren?t making babies

The demographic evolution of Greece, as reported in the latest census, is cause for serious concern. According to the figures, the population has shrunk by 145,000 people since 2001, confirming the aging trend that has so often been noted in the past.

This trend has increased over the past decade, if the figures of the Hellenic Statistical Authority are anything to go by. There is some doubt as to the legitimacy of the data, at least according to the usual conspiracy theory spinners, who argue that many people did not participate in the census because it included a questionnaire demanding a number of personal details. To these people we can also add the elderly, many of whom did not open their door to census takers because they were scared they might be robbers trying to trick them.

These, however, are details, and even if the conspiracy theorists are right, we cannot ignore the fact that the Greek population is aging and shrinking, possibly faster than other countries in Europe that are experiencing similar trends.

In Russia, for example, the birthrate is at dangerously low levels, and the same can be said for Germany, Italy, Spain and other European states. The problem, therefore, is a European one and not a Western phenomenon, as it does not apply to the United States. In Greece the problem is graver because it cannot be attributed solely to a change in mentalities and the modern way of life, nor to the increasing number of women who choose work or a career over having a family.

What is broadly perceived as ?Greek reality? appears to be the foremost reason why young people are shying away from having babies. This ?Greek reality? hinges to a great extent on the inadequacy of the state, which, among other factors that have rendered life difficult, especially in big cities, has failed to create adequate child-minding services, has allowed formal education to be replaced by education at private institutions, has nurtured a parasitic work ethic and has allowed uncertainty to mar young people?s view of the future. Add to this the almost hysterical overprotectiveness most Greeks feel toward the children, and the fear of having a family begins to make more sense.

So, the slogan now should be ?Make babies, because we?re doomed.? But the fact is that if the necessary reforms are not adopted and the mood in the country does not improve significantly, no slogan will do the trick.