Academic journal article Population

Assessing the Contribution of Foreign Women to Period Fertility in Greece, 2004-2012

Academic journal article Population

Assessing the Contribution of Foreign Women to Period Fertility in Greece, 2004-2012

Article excerpt

Over the past 30 years the demography of South European countries, such as Greece, Italy and Spain, has been defined by two major events. First, since the 1980s period fertility has decreased sharply, reaching extremely low levels, termed "lowest-low" fertility by Kohler, Billari and Ortega (2002), within just a few years. Second, these traditional emigration countries have been transformed into immigrant destinations, experiencing significant migrant inflows since the 1990s, mainly from eastern and central Europe as well as from less developed Asian and African regions. In this context, an important question arises: will the increasing numbers of foreign women from high fertility countries "compensate" up to a point for the very low fertility rates of the national populations?

The case of foreign fertility in Greece remains largely unexplored. It was not until 2004, the year in which the relevant data first became available, that it became possible to evaluate the relative contribution of foreign women to changes in the period fertility of the total population. We can now establish a coherent picture of the effects of the composition of the foreign population and its childbearing behaviour on demographic developments in Greece, particularly in response to the severe economic crisis that has affected the country's economy and welfare since 2008. The present study thus has two main objectives: first, to assess fertility levels and trends of foreign women in Greece and their contribution to the overall period fertility over the period 2004-2012; and second, to evaluate the relative contribution of the fertility behaviour of foreign women aged 15-49 in relation to fertility trends of the total population. To achieve the latter, decomposition analysis is used to separate effects due to changes in foreign fertility from those related to changes in the share of foreign women in the total female population of reproductive age.

I. Background

Greece became a receiving country in the course of the 1990s. At the 1991 census, 1.6% of the Greek population were foreign citizens; this proportion then increased substantially, reaching 7.0% in 2001 (762,191 persons) and 8.4% in 2011 (911,929 persons). Foreign women aged 15-49 represented 8.8% of the female population of reproductive ages in 2001, rising to 11.5% in 2011; about half of these (50.4%) are Albanians, 10.4% are citizens of Asian countries, 1.9% are from Africa and 29.0% from eastern Europe, mainly Bulgaria, Romania and Poland.

While foreign citizens have comprised a sizeable proportion of the overall population since 1991, previous analyses provide no more than fragmentary evidence regarding levels and trends of foreign fertility in Greece because the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) did not compile data on births by citizenship of the mother before 2004. Before that year, the only information on levels of foreign fertility is derived from the question on children ever born in the 2001 census of Greece and reflects the fertility of cohorts who may have started their reproductive lives in their country of origin (Bagavos et al. 2008). For the period 2005-2006, Kotzamanis and Sofianopoulou (2008) estimated a total fertility rate (TFR) of 2.21 children per woman for foreigners (2.54 among Albanians whose births represented 61% of foreign births), with foreign births accounting for around 17% of total births in that period. These estimates are very close to those of Tsimbos (2008) for the same period, although slightly higher. Lanzieri's (2013) TFR estimates for foreign women for 2009-2011 indicate a downward trend, with the rates decreasing from 2.87 to 2.26 children per woman. Nevertheless, the relative contribution of the foreign population and its fertility to the overall fertility of Greece has not been estimated.

However, a number of studies have explored the relative contribution of the rising numbers of either migrants or foreigners in the fertility rates of several European countries, such as England and Wales, France, the Netherlands, Austria, Denmark but also Italy and Spain (Basten et al. …

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