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In this post I am going to take a quick look at Greece vs Turkey population dynamics based on available statistics by the World Population Prospects of the UN. I will focus mainly on the working age population (25-64 years old) since this segment participates in production, defence and makes a society more or less dynamic. Moreover, projections up to 2050 have a small margin of error since (almost) the entire population has already been born.

Greece Population Dynamics 1995 - 2050

Greek total and working age population peaked in 2010 driven by the steady fall of people under 25 years old and the increase of the 65+ population. By 2020 working age population will be 6.1mn persons down from 6.4mn in 2010 while 65+ 2,35mn from 2.1mn. The 2025 numbers will be 5.9mn and 2.54mn. The negative dynamics will be present up until 2050 when total population will drop below 10mn, working age people will be only 4.4mn and 65+ 3.5mn.

It is clear that the Greek society will slowly lose all its dynamic and vibrant elements and transform into a nation of elderly people reliant on an ever decreasing working age population to care and contribute for their pensions. This is quite evident in the evolution of old-age dependency ratios, even if we enlarge the working age population to include the 65-69 segment:

Greece - Dependency Ratios

While the 65+ dependency ratio was a bit over 3:1 in 2010, it will drop to 2.6 during 2020 and reach 1.25:1 in 2050 while the 70+ ratio will also be less than 2 hovering at 1.85:1. The above suggests that either old-age pensions will be almost non-existent or that the working population contributions be very high in order to provide for the retired population. Instead of the classical class conflict we are likely to observe a strong age conflict.

Obviously Debt Sustainability scenarios regarding the large Greek government debt are prone to failure since the debt per person employed will quickly become too large (and compete with old-age pension contributions) unless Greek productivity miraculously increases at an astonishing rate.

Turkey on the other hand is a vibrant, young nation with the majority of its people being relatively young. In 2015 the country had a total population of 78.27mn with 42% younger than 25 years and a total of 73% being up to 44 years old. Its young age population will keep increasing until 2020 while its working age population will only stabilize around 2045 at close to 49mn (with a total population a bit less than 95mn). Still, its population over 65 years old will also show a substantial increase during this period growing from only 3mn in 1995 (5% of population) to almost 20mn in 2050 (20.5% of population) with an old-age dependency ratio of 2.5:1

Turlkey - Population Dyanmics 1995 - 2050

Nevertheless, during the 2020s, Turkey will still reap the rewards of a growing working-age population without the increase being overwhelmed by a stronger growth in the 65+ population (something which will happen after 2030).

Comparing the working age and 25-44 population groups of Greece and Turkey up until 2030 it is evident how different these societies will be as well as how their relative sizes will evolve:

Turkey vs Greece Population Ratios 1995 - 2030

At the end of 1995 (when the Imia crisis erupted) Greece had a working age population of 5.7mn while Turkey 24.5mn for a ratio of 4.3:1.

During the 2020 decade the working age population ratio will reach 10:1 while the same will happen for the more vibrant (and important as military reserve) 25-44 age group. Given that the Ameco database projects that Turkish GDP per person employed (in Euros) will be close to 2/3 of its Greek counterpart by 2019 one can assume based only on population dynamics that the Turkish economy will become 5 to 6 times larger than the Greek economy during the next decade (the IMF is already projecting that it will be 4.5 times larger by 2022).

Given such dynamics, coupled with the costs faced by Greece to service its government debt and old-age pension needs, it is highly unlikely that Greece will be able to maintain sufficient military forces in order to counter Turkish pressure. Having an economy 5-6 times larger as well as an industrial base capable of providing for most of its military equipment needs domestically will mean that Turkey will be in a position to procure a military force several times higher than its Greek counterpart with an investment still lower as a percentage of GDP.

Greek society will have to make a tough choice during the next decade. It will be next to impossible to simultaneously service its large government debt, provide for its elderly (in terms of old-age pensions and health services) and counter the Turkish military force with a sufficiently large investment in equipment.

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