This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Monday, April 17, 2017

Will the Greeks Make More Babies?

The New York Times has a lengthy article today generally bemoaning low fertility in southern Europe, with a special focus on Greece. However, the article is nicely balanced in the sense that it points out that the "demographic time bomb" (my choice of words--not the article's) of low fertility--and thus a rapidly aging population--is itself a consequence of decades of economic under-performance in southern Europe. If the economy were better, people would be having more kids (as, for example, in northern Europe or the U.S.).
As couples grapple with a longer-than-expected stretch of low growth, high unemployment, precarious jobs and financial strain, they are increasingly deciding to have just one child — or none.
Approximately a fifth of women born in the 1970s are likely to remain childless in Greece, Spain and Italy, a level not seen since World War I, according to the Wittgenstein Center for Demography and Global Human Capital, based in Vienna. And hundreds of thousands of fertile young people have left for Germany, Britain and the prosperous north, with little intent of returning unless the economy improves.
Data from the UN Population Division reveal that none of the region's three largest countries--Greece, Italy, and Spain, has had above replacement levels at any time since 1980. This is not a new thing. It is not a crisis of reproduction (or lack thereof), so much as it is a crisis of the political economies and cultures of the region. 
“As long as Greece has high unemployment, it may be good luck that there’s not a baby boom,” said Byron Kotzamanis, a demography professor at the University of Thessaly.
“If there was,” he added, “we might have more problems right now.”
The article hints at the problem of gender equality, but if you've read my book and this blog (such as this post in January), you'll know that I am one of many people who think that the cultural issue of gender inequality is an important reason for the very low fertility in southern (and eastern) Europe, just as it is in East Asia. 

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