Demographics must be treated as a national problem, said the Pan-Cypriot Organization of the Five-member Family (POPO), in a press conference it gave on Friday morning on the demographics at the Press Center in Nicosia. At the conference, the positions of the Organization on the demographic problem and the result of the meetings of the POPO with the candidate Presidents of the Republic were presented.
Solonas Kasinis, General Secretary of POPO, who read the positions of the Organization, emphasized that demographics must be addressed by the entire state as a national problem. He pointed out that Cyprus ranks third worst in Europe with a fertility rate of 1.34, while the population replacement rate is 2.1.
In addition, the General Secretary of the POPO referred to the processes taking place in Cypriot society and which are intertwined with the needs and standards imposed by the modern way of life, leading “to the tragic current demographic situation”. He suggested that the triple bottom line of a country's demographic death is low birth rates, population aging and immigration. “No country that has fallen below a fertility rate of 1.5 has managed to get back above it again,” he underlined. to fill the demographic gap caused by the decrease in births, however, if the immigration balance (inflows-outflows) has a negative sign, there will not be any demographic contribution.
He also spoke of political consequences due to the demographic change of the population of Cyprus over time, stressing that the demographic solution of the Cypriot population is 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 until 2050 will also become a population reality”, he indicated.
The aging of the population, continued Mr. Kasinis, brings both economic and political consequences, such as the numerical reduction of the workforce and the reduction of inflows to the Social Insurance Fund (SIF), “which will soon be unsustainable”. Other consequences include rising health care costs, declining drafts and significant teacher job losses.
The POPO DG noted that the National Agency for Demographic and Family Policy, which was created 13 years ago, is characterized by piecemeal policy measures to support the family and a lack of strategic planning. Additionally, he said that in the Recovery and Resilience Plan there is no reference to demographics, but scattered references to family and child support.
Mr. Kasinis pointed out that the State has a duty to facilitate and support every couple who want to have children, adding that the three-child family should be recognized as having many children, “since it is the key to low fertility”.
Afterwards, he presented the recommendations of the POPO for tax reform with a demographic dimension. In this context, he noted, the Organization recommends, among other things, the payment of a lump sum of 3,000 euros for each birth of a child based on the current income criteria, the abolition of the annual allowance with one and two children and its replacement with the lump sum at the birth of each child .
Furthermore, Mr. Kasinis talked about incentives that will contribute to the increase in births, mentioning among others incentives for having a second child, the assistance of infertile couples to have a child and the support of families with 3 children or more. The measures to protect motherhood included, among other things, the expansion of paid parental leave for both parents, the provision of facilities to mothers during the infancy of children and the reinstatement of the mother's allowance for mothers of three.
The General Secretary of the POPO also referred to measures to reconcile work and family, such as – among others – the extension of full-day school on a proper basis, free school buses for families with three children and tax reliefs for large families. In addition, he spoke about support measures for students from large families, proposing – among other things – to give priority to student dormitories, to grant scholarships to excellent students and to divide families with three children into IKY scholarships.
In turn, Efthymios Struthos, President of POPO, stated that a meeting of the Organization has been arranged for February 1st with Archbishop George, whom he thanked for the positions he expressed regarding the demographic both pre-election and pre-election. “The Church is a great organization that can really help reverse the decline we've had in terms of births,” he said.
Responding to a journalistic question, Mr. Struthos stated that POPO had decided to meet with the candidate Presidents of the Republic before they announced their programs. “If you compare their programs with the positions of the organization, several POPO positions have crossed over into the candidates' programs, such as full-day school and infrastructure creation,” he added.
However, he noted that the positions of candidates do not fit into a strategic objective to address the demographic problem. For this reason, he explained, POPO is requesting the creation of a Demographic Directorate. “As long as we have in front of us an intransigent Turkey, we have no mercy. We have to solve the problem ourselves”, he emphasized.
Asked to answer whether the positions of any candidate are closer to the positions of the POPO, the President of the Organization said that in the programs of all the candidates there are positions that have been vaccinated from POPO, but stated that it is not an end in itself to say whether one candidate has better positions than another. In terms of infrastructure, all candidates agree that some things need to be done to make work family-friendly, he concluded.