and Population Policy
The family, being the cornerstone of the preservation and the advancement of the Nation, as well as marriage, motherhood and childhood, shall be under the protection of the State.
Article 21, Constitution of the Republic of Greece, “In the name of the
Holy and Consubstantial and Indivisible Trinity”
During my time in Athens, I heard all sorts of people exclaim over the immediate certainty that “Greece is getting smaller. ” An elderly lady once lectured me sternly about “people these days not having children anymore” as she clutched my arm for support while darting through stalled traffic on Vasilissis Sofias Avenue. A surprising number of Athenians can quote the country's fertility index: 1.4 children per woman of reproductive age while I was in Greece (dropping to 1.28 by 1999; see Council of Europe 2001). Everyone has a theory. As noted earlier, popular explanation pins blame on the pollution-filled haze that hangs over the nation's capital, which, as a kind of symbol of the toxic side of modernity, is held responsible for declining sperm counts. In a radio commercial broadcast during record-breaking heat in the summer of 1999, one that played to the common perception that people are having sex less frequently these days, an air-conditioner manufacturer promoted its product as a solution to the country's “problem of underfertility” (Athanasiou 1999). What is more, nearly everyone I spoke with about it described ipoyenitikótita (underfertility) as a threat to the nation or to the Greek “race. ” Nadia said to me darkly, “There will not be a next generation…. And history will end. ” Soula commented, “A people will disappear if this rate continues. ” Although many laugh self-consciously even as they deliver the party line, Greece's demographic weakness, abbreviated simply as to dhimoghrafikó (the demographic), is a popular topic of conversation and concern.