Greece’s demographic problem | eKathimerini.com
Greece has the prerequisites to contribute to the global demographic issue. His situation and his experience give him arguments to claim an important role. However, to meet the challenges, it must open up to the outside world. [AP]
The results of the 2021 census confirmed Greece’s demographic decline. The current state of the population is a far cry from the exemplary census of 1961 – when the Greek statistical service was reorganized with foreign aid. The Center for Social Research, the Center for Economic Research and the Statistical Service collaborated with French and American experts. The related studies and publications had a significant impact on social research and policy, which was then pursued in the fields of society, economy and spatial planning.
The following census, in 1971, was carried out in a completely different state of mind. The withdrawal of the dictatorial regime and the expulsion of foreign experts have destroyed the aforementioned scientific momentum. Subsequently, interest in demographic issues waned as economic measurement, surveys, and analysis prevailed. This development reflected the radical adjustment of the context in which Greece operated. The European course and globalization have weakened interest in national processes and turned it towards foreign economic dependencies.
The population factor is now coming to the fore again, both inside and outside Greece. Europe is in demographic decline, with serious negative consequences – economic and otherwise. On the contrary, neighboring Africa is experiencing explosive population growth. Migration flows are increasing. Refugee flows, due to climate change or geopolitical crises, such as the one in Ukraine, threaten the global balance. Globalization, combined with the digital revolution, has strengthened diaspora networks, with productive but often dangerous results. Pandemics grow en masse. Finally, the demographic factor affects the major world balances; as in China, whose aspired hegemony is threatened by the consequences of the Maoist regime’s one-child policy.
In the spectacular revival of interest in demography, Greece occupies a pivotal position. Historically, it is a workshop on demographic transformations, since it welcomed and integrated the huge refugee population after the Asia Minor Catastrophe. It repeated the feat after the end of the Cold War by integrating immigrants from former communist countries, starting with Albania. Between Europe, Africa and Asia, it acts as a crossroads for migratory flows. A country of outgoing populations, with significant migratory flows towards the United States, Australia and Europe, Greece is at the same time a place of destination for refugees. Population decline threatens economic development; the aging of the population raises serious concerns about its future ability to innovate and progress. A comparison of declining demographics with the demographics of revisionist Turkey raises fears for the future. Finally, the large Greek diaspora centers the Greek case in the relevant global concern.
Decline threatens economic development; the aging of the population raises serious concerns about its future ability to innovate and progress
Greece urgently needs to renew and expand its concerns and knowledge on demographic issues; understand the issues, the risks, the solutions and the opportunities concerning the populations concerned by the Greek space and the Greek identity: Greeks from Greece, Greeks from the diaspora, migrants and refugees on Greek territory, foreigners with prerequisites for potentially join the Greek population.
Greece has the prerequisites to contribute to the global demographic issue. Its geographical location and its historical experience give it arguments to claim an important role. However, to meet the challenges and seize the opportunities, it needs to open up to the outside world. As in the 1960s, it is only through openness that decisive scientific research and political power can be mobilized for such a demanding and decisive mission.
In June 2021, during an official visit to Greece by the Secretary General of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Mathias Cormann, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis presented him with a proposal to create an OECD center in Crete, focusing on population issues. This particularly timely proposal places Greece at the center of international interest on the demographic question; at the same time, it provides our country with the necessary conditions and incentives to develop innovative research on vital demographic issues. The Secretary General of the OECD accepted the proposal in principle, recognizing its importance and the resulting benefits for the international organization. However, for the proposal to be approved by the 38-member council, the Greek Permanent Delegation to the OECD in Paris conducted long and arduous negotiations for a year, with in-depth discussions, convincing responses and systematic approaches, to overcome reservations, objections, doubts and stereotypes. The project for an OECD center in Crete is finally approved unanimously. This Greek success represents a great opportunity that comes at a particularly sensitive time.
George Prevelakis is Emeritus Professor of Geopolitics at the Sorbonne University and Permanent Representative of Greece to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.