When Elam was given the presidency of the ad hoc parliamentary committee on the demographic problem it may have thought of it as the ideal platform for its anti-migrant rhetoric and xenophobia. It was a forum that could generate alarm about the migrant threat to Cypriot society and to our way of life, while helping promote Elam’s ideas about racial purity.

When the ad hoc committee met on Tuesday, under the chairmanship of Elam deputy Linos Papayiannis, there was some talk about the large numbers of migrant children in our schools (in 22 state primary schools in Nicosia, Greek Cypriot children were a minority), but a much more pressing issue was the country’s low birth-rate. In 2022 it was 1.4, well below the replacement rate of 2.1.

The low birth-rate, said Papayiannis, made Cyprus one of the countries in danger of seeing the reduction of its local population, while the replacement of the population was from migrant flows. There may have been a small rise in the birth rate, but this was down to migrant couples, which, he said, was ‘tragic’. Despite the alleged threat of growing numbers of migrants, the committee recognised that the bigger threat to our society and the economy was the low birth-rate.

For the last few years all debate has focused on the migrant flow while the low birth-rate has been completely ignored. The agency for facing the demographic problem has not met for some three years, while measures adopted by the previous government to encourage families to have more children, such as longer maternity leave, and the introduction of paternity/parental leave, have not had the desired results. Meanwhile the big families’ association has been complaining about the inadequate state support of its members.

The agency, which has been dormant the last few years, will meet again later this month, under the labour minister, in order to deal with the matter. Whether it will be able to come up with any measures that would reverse this worrying trend, which is experienced in most European countries, nobody knows. Perhaps having fewer children is part of the modern lifestyle and the ‘me’ culture. This is why the agency, before it announces any measures, should establish the reasons the birth-rate has been steadily falling in Cyprus.

Meanwhile the agency should also consider ways of making Cyprus society more inclusive and assimilating towards migrant children who attend public schools, speak Greek and are growing up in Cyprus. They need to feel they belong, if they are to make the positive contribution to our society that will be needed in the coming years, in which the consequences of the low birth-rate will have an impact.