Greece Demographics and Economic Geography
Southern European state, located on the Balkan Peninsula. At the 2011 census, the population amounted to 10,816,286 residents, which in 2014 increased to 11,128,404 residents, according to an estimate by UNDESA (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs); with the exception of this recovery in 2014, the demographic trend in recent years has in any case been negative (at the 2001 census the country counted 10,964,080 residents). The birth rate, which fell to 8.5 ‰ (2013), is among the lowest in the world.
These demographic behaviors can also be explained in light of the profound economic and social crisis experienced by the country in recent years, starting with the international financial crisis of 2007, the effects of which quickly spread from the United States to Europe, affecting in particular those countries with state finances in a state of weakness. As a result of the repeated negative judgments on the Greek public accounts expressed by the rating agencies, the confidence of international investors dropped dramatically, causing a surge in interest rates on public debt.
At the end of 2009 the prospect of a default of the Greek public accounts had profound repercussions on the entire European monetary system. The heated debate that followed went beyond the narrow technical fields, generating broad reflections on the European Central Bank’s (ECB) ability to carry out its functions. Even the forced exit, more or less guided, of Greece from the euro was ventilated. The ECB authorities, in agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), however, decided in May 2010 to grant a loan of 110 billion euros to support the country’s economic recovery, a loan repeated in February 2012 for another 130 billion. As a consequence of the risk of bankruptcy, in May 2010 the Greek government in office, on the recommendation of the so-called troika composed of the European Union, the ECB and the IMF, launched heavy austerity measures aimed at reducing the debt, which in the meantime had become the third largest in the world. They included a freeze on the salaries of civil servants, a reform of the pension system, cuts to health, social security and education, and the fight against tax evasion. These measures, perceived as imposed from the outside, were strongly criticized by the population, who reacted with demonstrations that often resulted in violence. The hard line in economic policy was accused of having caused the contraction of domestic demand, generating a destabilizing recessive spiral.
After years of recession, however, in 2014 the Greek GDP started to grow again (+ 0.6%), giving us glimpses of positive glimpses for the future. However, the scenarios remain uncertain, and it is indeed plausible that the effects of the long crisis will remain felt for a long time, not only on the economy but on the entire Greek society, shaken by years of intense social tensions and very high levels of unemployment (25.8% in 2014), which reached record rates for the youth groups (55.3% in 2012, third in the world in that year). However, it should be noted that the figure on real unemployment is difficult to measure, due to the high weight of the undeclared in the Greek economy. Greece has become, also due to the corruption present within the public administration.
A few years after the financial bailout, the attempt to restart the Greek economy is still inspired by measures to contain public spending and the divestment of state assets. The cuts also affected spending in the defense sector, which in the past were consistently higher than other European countries. In addition, privatization plans have been launched in two sectors with a strong public presence: banking and radio and television.
In an economically weak context, the tourism sector appears less affected than others and is confirmed as fundamental in the Greek economy, with a weight on GDP estimated at 18% and employment at 16.5% of the national workforce.
The distribution of the population remains highly unbalanced, centering on Athens, which in 2011 counted about 3,168,000 residents in its urban agglomeration, almost a third of the entire population of Greece. The only other large urban center is Thessaloniki, which had about 883,000 residents on the same date. The communications network remains anomalous compared to the continental panorama, due to the weight of maritime transport. In fact, the backwardness of the Balkan countries in infrastructure for land transport continues to penalize road communications between Greece and the rest of Europe. The country thus relies above all on maritime transport, traditionally counting on the largest merchant fleet in the world by tonnage, a figure that contrasts with the overall and dramatic production crisis.