Greece’s de­mo­graphic time bomb is about to go off

The dan­ger­ous com­bi­na­tion of an ag­ing pop­u­la­tion and low birthrates is threat­en­ing the coun­try’s so­cial se­cu­rity sys­tem, study finds

Kathimerini English - - Focus - BY ROULA SALOUROU

Young Greeks com­prise the ever-shrink­ing bot­tom of a pop­u­la­tion chart which should re­sem­ble a pyra­mid but in fact looks more like a short, fat mush­room, while the top, made up of pen­sion­ers, keeps get­ting big­ger, threat­en­ing the col­lapse of the en­tire struc­ture, ex­perts warn, say­ing that the ef­fects on pen­sion and so­cial se­cu­rity sys­tems may be ir­re­versible un­less steps are taken now.

Ac­cord­ing to New York-based non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion Hel­pAge In­ter­na­tional, in 2030, one in three Greeks will be aged over 60, with the rate grow­ing pro­por­tion­ately through 2050. Greece has one of the world’s most rapidly ag­ing pop­u­la­tions, to­gether with Ja­pan, South Korea, Italy, Spain and Por­tu­gal, and by 2050 it is es­ti­mated that the num­ber of over-60s will have risen to 40.8 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion.

Hel­pAge’s data on the qual­ity of life of el­derly Greeks, mean­while, are wor­ry­ing as the coun­try has been found to be one of the worst places for the el­derly to live, rank­ing in 79th place among 96 na­tions, be­hind Venezuela and South Africa. What is in­ter­est­ing is that Greece ranked quite high in spe­cific ar­eas of the study, such as in­come se­cu­rity (28th place) and healthcare (22nd). The low rank­ing, ac­cord­ing to the Hel­pAge data, comes from its poor per­for­mance in other in­dices, such as how se­cure el­derly peo­ple feel about the fu­ture and whether they are be­ing use­fully em­ployed.

In terms of po­ten­tial, Greece ranked in 87th place, as just 35.6 per­cent of peo­ple aged 55 to 64 are em­ployed and only 31.3 per­cent of the over-60s have com­pleted sec­ondary or higher ed­u­ca­tion. The so­cial en­vi­ron­ment puts Greece in 91st spot, with 48 per­cent of cit­i­zens over 50 say­ing they feel safe to walk alone in their town or city.

How­ever, in the ar­eas that Greece ap­peared to do quite well, such as in­come se­cu­rity and healthcare, it is ex­pected that its per­for­mance will de­te­ri­o­rate rapidly in the com­ing years as a re­sult of the long-term ef­fects of the cri­sis.

Ac­cord­ing to By­ron Kotza­ma­nis, a pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Thes­saly and di­rec­tor of the Lab­o­ra­tory of De­mo­graphic and So­cial Anal­y­sis (LDSA), sig­nif­i­cant de­te­ri­o­ra­tions are ex­pected in the healthcare sys­tem and the in­come lev­els of most Greeks in the next few years, which will have a dra­matic ef­fect on qual­ity of life and life ex­pectancy.

Data from Hel­pAge sug­gest that av­er­age life ex­pectancy for Greeks af­ter the age of 60 is 24 years, but they will only en­joy 17.4 of those years in good health, slightly be­low the Euro­pean av­er­age. As far as av­er­age in­comes for those over 60 are con­cerned, this is higher than other coun­tries in the re­gion but ranks poorly when bro­ken down. Gross na­tional in­come per capita for the over60s is low at $26,215 (23,525 eu­ros), while the per­cent­age of peo­ple above the age of 65 re­ceiv­ing a pen­sion is be­low the Euro­pean av­er­age at 77.4 per­cent.

Deaths & births

Ma­jor changes are also ex­pected in the makeup of the Greek pop­u­la­tion, with ex­perts es­ti­mat­ing that in 2025 deaths will out­num­ber births, 22 per­cent of Greeks will be over the age of 65, and 15 per­cent of the 65+ group will con­sist of peo­ple above 85 years old. The first signs of de­te­ri­o­ra­tion in the over­all that in 2025 deaths will out­num­ber births, 22 per­cent of Greeks will be over the age of 65, and 15 per­cent of the 65+ group will con­sist of peo­ple above 85 years old. The first signs of de­te­ri­o­ra­tion in the over­all health of the pop­u­la­tion as a re­sult of the cri­sis will start be­com­ing vis­i­ble the next decade, they say. health of the pop­u­la­tion as a re­sult of the cri­sis will start be­com­ing vis­i­ble the next decade, the ex­perts warn, with Kotza­ma­nis adding that the pop­u­la­tion of Greece, last counted in 2011 at just un­der 11 mil­lion, will shrink by 300,000 to 400,000 in the next 10 years, due to deaths and em­i­gra­tion.

Births per woman born be­tween 1975 and 1990 will likely be lim­ited to 1.4 chil­dren, he adds.

Pop­u­la­tion ag­ing is one of the big­gest chal­lenges that lie ahead for Greece, ac­cord­ing to the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion’s 2015 Ag­ing Re­port. It es­ti­mated that the Greek pop­u­la­tion will shrink by 2.5 mil­lion peo­ple to reach 8.6 mil­lion by 2060, while in France, for ex­am­ple, the pop­u­la­tion is ex­pected to grow to 75.7 mil­lion in 2060 com­pared to 65.7 mil­lion in 2013.

A sep­a­rate study con­ducted by Greece’s Al­pha Bank also ar­gues that low birthrates will con­trib­ute to the re­duc­tion in the pop­u­la­tion, say­ing these will come to 1.58 chil­dren per women in 2060, com­pared to a eu­ro­zone av­er­age of 1.72. As far as the age makeup of the pop­u­la­tion is con­cerned, the Al­pha Bank study fore­sees the 65+ age group con­sti­tut­ing 33 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion in 2060 com­pared with 20.3 per­cent in 2013, while the 0-14 age group is seen shrink­ing to 12.9 per­cent in 2060 from 14.6 per­cent in 2013.

The 2015 Ag­ing Re­port goes on to warn that the num­ber of peo­ple aged over 65 com­pared to those in the eco­nom­i­cally ac­tive age group of 15 to 64 years will grow grad­u­ally from 31 per­cent in 2013 to 42 per­cent in 2030 and then to an un­man­age­able 61 per­cent in 2060.

In 2060, six in 10 peo­ple in the work­ing pop­u­la­tion will be above 65 years old, com­pared with three in 10 to­day. Those aged 55-64 will con­sti­tute 78 per­cent of the eco­nom­i­cally ac­tive pop­u­la­tion com­pared to 42.4 per­cent last year.

For chil­dren born in 2000, this means that by the time they reach 50, they will have to pay much higher taxes and so­cial se­cu­rity con­tri­bu­tions to sup­port the older gen­er­a­tion, which will put an in­cred­i­ble strain on the sys­tem, par­tic­u­larly since the eco­nom­i­cally ac­tive age group of 15-64 is ex­pected to drop to 4.6 mil­lion in 2060 com­pared to 7.3 mil­lion in 2013.

The ag­ing of the pop­u­la­tion will also lead to peo­ple stay­ing in the job mar­ket longer, the study found. In 2013 just 4.9 per­cent of the Greek work force was aged 65-75 and this will shoot up to 14.3 per­cent in 2030 and 24.4 per­cent in 2060, by which time the av­er­age age of the work force will be 44 from 39 to­day. The age of re­tire­ment will reach 67.5 per­cent among men in 2060 from 61 years old in 2013, and among women, it will go up from 61.2 last year to 67.1 in 2060.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Greece

© PressReader. All rights reserved.