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Demography is Destiny

Greek maternal age increasing

Greek maternal age increasing

by Marcus Roberts | March 05, 2019

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A few short years ago the economic crisis in Greece was one of the top news stories for a number weeks, if not months. Back in January we discussed the impact that the sharp economic upheaval has had on Greek demography: the outlook for Greece’s population is sharply older and smaller (with a much smaller working aged population).

Adding to this demographic decline is the continued upward trend of the age that the average mother gives birth in Greece. According to ekathimerini.com, the University of Thessaly has published new research that indicates that the average age of mothers giving birth in Greece has climbed from 26.1 years old in 1980 to 31.5 years old in 2017. Greek mothers are giving birth much later than most European and other countries with advanced economies. In 2016 the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) showed that Greece has the ninth highest childbirth age among the 45 states monitored. (The mean maternal age for OECD countries was just over 30 years.)

According to Alexandra Tragaki, an associate professor in Economic Demography at Harokopio University, Athens, the reason for this rise in the age that women are giving birth in Greece is women wish to finish their studies and consolidate their careers before entering motherhood. This concern to become financially established must only have been exacerbated by the economic downturn – if one has a job then it would be hard to leave it in the uncertain and difficult years after 2008.  

If women delay having children, then the country’s birth rate will generally decline. As Tragaki notes, biologically the capacity to give birth declines after the age of 35, so the older that a woman decides to give birth, the fewer chances she has to successfully conceive and deliver a child.

Currently Greece has a fertility rate of 1.26 children per woman, below the EU’s average of 1.49 children per woman. Such a low fertility rate, combined with a large number of young professionals leaving the country for greener economic pastures (500,000 in the last 10 years) means that by 2050 the Greek population is expected to decline by about a quarter. The number of those in the working age bracket (20-69 years old) is estimated to decline from 7.1 million (in 2015) to 5.7 million people by 2050. The proportion of the population aged over 65 years old is expected to increase from a fifth to a third over that same time period.

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