Greece, People and Society
Peloponnisos, major port city, capital of Crete, Iraklion, guest workers
In 1991, at the time of the most recent census, Greece had a population of 10,259,900. In 2002 the country had an estimated population of 10,645,343. Declining birth rates have resulted in a very low rate of population increase. In 1951 the birth rate was 20.3 per 1,000 persons; by 2002 it had decreased to 9.8 per 1,000. In 2002 male life expectancy at birth was 76 years, and female life expectancy was 81 years.
Since World War II (1939-1945), Greece has witnessed significant migration from rural areas—particularly mountain villages—to cities and towns. In 2000, 60 percent of Greece’s inhabitants lived in urban areas. More than one-third of the population was concentrated in the Athens metropolitan area, where job opportunities have been most plentiful. After Athens, the principal city in Greece is Thessaloniki, a major port city and a center of international shipping for the southern Balkans. Other major cities include Piraeus, a major port and industrial center, located near Athens; Patrai, the most significant port on the Peloponnisos; Iraklion, the capital of Crete; and Volos and Larisa, commercial centers in Thessaly.
In the 1950s and 1960s more than 10 percent of Greece’s population emigrated. Many of the emigrants left to live as guest workers in western Europe, West Germany in particular. A significant number have since returned to Greece. The current rate of emigration is very low. Greece has seen a flood of immigrants, most of them illegal, in the 1990s. The country’s immigrant population is estimated to be between 500,000 and 800,000 people. Many of them have come from economically troubled Albania.
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