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Cyprus Table of Contents


Birth Rates

At the end of the 1980s, the Republic of Cyprus had a fertility rate (births per woman) of 2.4, the highest in Western Europe. But this spurt in births was a new development, and it was uncertain how long it would continue. In the troubled 1970s, the reverse had been the case. Substantial migration and a decline in the fertility rate resulted in a negative growth rate of -0.9 percent in the years 1973-76 (see fig. 5). In the period 1976-82, while the economy was being restructured, population growth gradually reached an average rate of 0.8 percent, and in 1984 peaked at 1.4 percent. In the second half of the 1980s, the growth rate remained above 1 percent.

The long-term decline in the fertility rate was first noted after World War II, when the crude birth rate dropped from 32 per thousand in 1946 to an average of 25 per thousand during the 1950s. The main contributing factor in this remarkable fall in fertility was the rapid postwar economic development. This downward trend continued in the following decades, and a rate of 18 per thousand was recorded in the first part of the 1970s. After a further decline to 16 per thousand in the years after the 1974 invasion, the Greek Cypriot birth rate increased to a rate of 20 to 21 per thousand during the period 1980-86, and then continued its decline, reaching 19.2 per thousand in 1985-88.

This change in the reproductive behavior of the Greek Cypriot population was generally attributed to improvement of the standard of living, expansion of education to all sections of the population, and the consequent wider participation by women in the work force. In addition, there was the traditional Cypriot concern to provide a better future for offspring, which, in a modern social context, entailed increased expenditure for education and a striving to amass a larger material inheritance. As a result, the average family size has declined, from 3.97 persons in 1946 to 3.51 in 1982.

A final cause of declining birth rates is the disappearance in Cyprus of the rural-urban dichotomy, in which higher birth rates are registered in the countryside. The postwar period saw an increasing movement of people to the towns, on either a daily or a permanent basis. This fact, together with the compactness of the island, has resulted in "the near fusion of urban and rural life," in the words of L. W. St. John Jones, a student of Cypriot demography. The rapid and effective dissemination of typical urban attitudes contributed to a rural fertility rate not much higher than the urban one. Contraceptives were easily available at modest cost all over the island; abortions, widely carried out in private clinics, were seen not as matters of moral or religious controversy, but simply as another means of family planning, albeit a drastic one.

Data as of January 1991