Worrying statistics

Greece's Number Is Up

Greece's headcount is falling.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Continued austerity is likely to further damage Greece’s already poor levels of economic drivers.

  • Facts


    • In 2012, Greek pupils were ranked 42nd in a global list of basic school skills.
    • Greece was ranked 55th of 142 countries in the 2013 Global Innovation Index.
    • By 2030, Greece’s population will have fallen below 10 million from a peak of 11.1 million in 2010.
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Many respected economists expect that Greece will return to global competitiveness only when it ceases to receive aid and frees up its economic energy by reintroducing a domestic currency that can be devalued at any time.

Opposing voices don’t see things very differently, but believe that the almost €240 billion ($271 billion) of bailout loans that Greece has already received will have to be enormously increased before the sun-soaked country can once again establish a favorable position in world markets.

But it seems that no matter who is right, Greece’s return to solvency will not only depend on sound economic decisions. Greece may also lack the skills to implement them.

Top talent is extremely rare.

After finishing 20th of 25 countries in the inaugural Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study in 1995, the country never again participated.

Since then, things appear to have got worse. Between 2006 and 2012, Greece slumped from 28th place to 42nd in the Programme for International Student Assessment rankings run by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

And out of every 10,000 inhabitants, almost 50 of the most mobile persons leave the country according to figures from 2013.

Among 142 economies in the 2013 Global Innovation Index, Greece was ranked a depressing 55th behind Uruguay, Mauritius and Serbia, a candidate for E.U. membership.

In 2012 there were 628 international patent registrations in Greece, compared to 46,620 in Germany.

The country seems to have no child prodigies who, for example, spend their time taking apart mobile phones and working out how to improve them before launching them on the world markets at unbeatable prices. In 2012 there were 628 international patent registrations in Greece, compared to 46,620 in Germany.

For these reasons in particular, the country’s quarterly gross domestic product declined from €63 billion in 2008 (June-August) to €48 billion six years later. In terms of purchasing power, the country was ranked just 63 globally in 2013.

However, come 2030, Greece’s current misery will seem like a bed of roses. In that year, the country will be at the mid-point in paying back two bailout packages worth a total of €237 billion.

Also, factoring in current emigration rates, Greece’s population will have fallen below 10 million from a peak of 11.1 million in 2010. Today there are only 88 births but 110 deaths per 10,000 inhabitants. The average age, currently 44, will then be a little under 50.

As the third oldest nation, Greece will still hope to welcome tourists. Yet Greeks still achieve high rankings when it comes to hostility to foreigners. In May 2014 they occupied third place among seven European countries in their rejection of Roma people, second place for Islamophobia and first place in anti-Semitism.

No one in the beautiful country seems to be able to name convincing factors for a dramatic economic ascent. For this reason, even before the elections on 25 January that brought the Syriza anti-austerity party to power, 74.2 percent of Greeks said that they definitely want to retain the euro.

And no one needs to explain to new prime minister Alexis Tsipras and his Syriza followers the delicate aspects of a transfer payment. Just as no reasonable welfare recipient would consider emigrating to a place that doesn’t give government handouts, so no country wants to depart from the European Union, without whose constant supply of billions life would really get hard.

It doesn’t matter whether the repayment of Greece’s huge debts are waived today or after a period of grace — they’ll never be made in any case.


To contact the author: gastautor@handelsblatt.com

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