The organisation representing large families sent a message to presidential candidates asking that the island’s “tragic” demographic situation be treated as a national problem before it’s too late.
During a news conference in Nicosia, general-secretary of the Pancyprian Organisation of Five-member Families (Popo) Solonas Kasinis, said Cyprus ranks third worst in Europe for population replacement with a fertility rate of 1.34. The replacement rate is 2.1.
“The triple bottom line of a country’s demographic death is low birth rates, population aging and immigration,” he said. “No country that has fallen below a fertility rate of 1.5 has managed to get back above it.”
Kasinis said that the inflows of immigrants can partially make up for the demographic gap caused by the decrease in births. However, there must be a balance, he said, to the immigration inflow and outflow. Referring to the north, he also said there was a political component that was now visible.
“With the gradual reduction of the population of the free areas and the population increase in the occupied areas, the political equality that the Turks are asking for will also become a population reality,” he said.
Another problem is the aging population that will ultimately lower the number of working class people and make the social security fund unsustainable. Other consequences would include rising health care costs.
The Popo head said that the National Agency for Demographic and Family Policy, which was created 13 years ago, was “characterised by piecemeal policy measures” to support the family, plus a lack of strategic planning. In addition, he said that in the Cyprus Recovery and Resilience Plan there was no reference to demographics, “but only scattered references to family and child support”.
Kasinis said the state has a duty to facilitate and support every couple who wants to have children, adding that the three-child family must be recognised as ‘a large family’ “since it is the key to low fertility”.
Popo’s recommendations to the presidential candidates include tax reforms, lump sums for births, incentives for people to have a second child, financial assistance for infertile couples and expansion of paid parental leave.
Other measures should include incentives to reconcile work and family life such as all-day schools across the board and free school buses.
Efthymios Struthos, the president of Popo, asked whether any of the candidates’ positions reflected those of the organisation, said all of them have some positions on some of the issues but not on all. “It is not an end in itself to say whether one candidate has better positions than another,” he said. “The problem is that the positions of the candidates are not part of a strategic objective to address the demographic problem.”