Dimitris Rapidis

The latest output about poverty in Greece conducted by the Greek Statistic Agency -along with combined data from Eurostat- shows the depth and width of the Greek problem since 2010. It only takes to consider that in 2010 unemployment rates were about 14% whereas two years later there is an increase of 50% reaching now 31% out of the general population. Unemployment and poverty are two of the fundamental macroeconomic indicators showing the development of public finance, and it is more than clear that the austerity packages adopted two years now have only achieved to deteriorate social conditions.

Data shows that the rate of Greeks living below the poverty threshold*, which indicates those being almost completely deprived of any means of survival, `has reached 21,4 % , which is 2,5 times higher than the EU-27 average. In other words, we are talking about 903,000 households or 2,3 million people. Infantile poverty is reaching 24% and senior’s poverty 23,6%. Alongside, horizontal unemployment rate reaches 29% in the general population, whereas only in the youth the rate exceeds 50%.

Meanwhile, social inequality presents a relevantly increasing shape. The wealthiest 20% of the population possesses a 6-time higher revenue than the poorest 20% of the Greek society, placing Greece’s inequality third in the relevant list after Bulgaria and Romania. We need to stress out that poverty increase is not only attributed to austerity measures, but additionally to the ill-developed financial planning and the excessive public spending that characterize public management in Greece.

The welfare state in Greece is nonexistent and this is what I consider the most crucial field of policy planning. Social allowances for unemployed as well as for health care are completely abandoned. In their place, and especially for the healthcare system, the Greek government is introducing a mandatory fee for healthcare treatment in public hospitals, a fact that will further lower the social safety net and will exclude many from resorting to public hospitals.

The general image from welfare planning in Greece is that despite any statements since 2009 that the entire public administration model would start functioning in favor of the citizen, there is instead a trend for horizontal privatization of the healthcare system and minimization of the role of state in social affairs. Therefore, what we should expect ahead would be the further weakening of the entire social establishment towards less social responsibility and less public intervention to traditional areas of state interest.

Conditions get even harder when someone includes recession rate. In 2013, it is expected to reach 7%, the highest ever since the triggering of the crisis. All things combined, there is one conclusion left: economic and social conditions are threatening and will continue threatening social stability and, in general, will increase extremism inclination of the Greek society.

*Poverty threshold indicator is considered when an individual earns annually 6.500 euro, whereas for the familly this amount is double.

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