Women's Choices Reduce Greece's Already
Low Birth Rate

by Christopher Xeneopoulos Janus

Women's access to contraception and abortion has turned child bearing into a choice rather than an act of nature.

However it must be noted the Greek government is doing everything it can to increase the incentives to have children.

At the time of the 1991 census, the population of Greece was 10,264,156, an increase of 524,000 since 1981. In 1991 population density was 78.1 persons per square kilometer - a misleading statistic since much of Greece's mountainous territory

is uninhabited. The birth rate has been shrinking steadily - 3 births per inhabitants in 1951; between 1984 and 1991, the rate decreased from 12.7 births to 10.1 births per 1,000 persons placing Greece at or below the average growth level of nearly all other Western industrialized nations.

Males whose life expectancy of seventy-five years is five years less than that for females, comprise 49% of the population.

In 1990 approximately 59,000 marriages took place in Greece. Of the women who married that year, the most (40 percent) were in the age group between 20 and 24, while 26% were between twenty-five and twenty-nine. Of the men 38% were between twenty-five and twenty­nine, and 22% were in each of the age groups immediately younger

and older. In 1991 some 6,351 marriages or 0.6 ended in divorce. Of the 102,229 births recorded in 1990, some 7% were to women aged fifteen to nineteen, 31 % to women between twenty and twenty-four, and 34% to women between twenty-five and twenty-nine.

The natural increase in Greece's and Europe's population is slowing and may start a steep decline within a few decades.

Researchers said European population growth reached a turning point in the year 2000 when then the number of children dropped to a level that statistically assured there would be fewer parents in the next generation than there are in the current generation.

Birth rates in European countries recently have reached a "historic low" with the most precipitous and recent fall in eastern Europe. All European countries recorded birth rates of more than 1.4 children per woman in 1990, but in 2002, 15 countries had rates below 1.3 and 1.4 children. France's birth rate of 1.8 makes it the only European country with the possibility of maintaining its current population through births. In addition, the average age at which women have their first child in many countries has increased from the early 20s to around 30 in the last 20 years.

European officials have estimated there will be a shortage of 20 million workers in eastern European countries by 2030 if current birth rates are sustained. As mentioned above, access to contraception and abortion has turned child bearing into a choice rather than an act of nature on the continent.

The change in the traditional role of women has been a major factor in the projected decline in population. The demands of education and Career encourage many women to put off having their first child. The research demonstrates that fertility in a population can be significantly affected by social trends that encourage women to delay starting a family. Although this has had a major effect on the European population, it has not been a major factor in the United States.

Birth rates in Greece and European countries have reached a "historic low," with the most precipitous and recent fall occurring in eastern Europe.

All the reasons for this decrease in the birth rate in Greece and other countries are not fully known. What is factual is that there has been a decrease and it is continuing but much to the credit of the Greek govermnent it has brought in consultants from the United States and European countries to offset this trend and it is estimated by the year 2015 Greece's birth rate will once again be positive.

(Posting date 26 October 2006)

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