September 30, 2014
Since 2008 the Greek state has experienced one of the deepest and persistent financial and economic crisis in its short history. A crisis that has dismantled its social nets, increased unemployment to unprecedented levels, broken out extreme right parties, lowered trust to the entire political and banking system. In contrary to other countries in the EU that implement programs against social inequality, Greece is way long behind reaching the minimum levels of a so-called “welfare state”. People vie for social care more than ever, but state’s reaction to increasing demands is considered inconsistent and burdened with bureaucratic dysfunctions. Meanwhile, there are no prospects for recapturing income losses in the near future.
Greece is the only member-states in the EU that has not implemented the guaranteed minimum income (GMI) system. There are no criteria for establishing the lowest level of living conditions, and there is no political consensus with reference to the minimum wage requirement that is necessary for someone in order to avoid being considered as poor or socially excluded. In many cases, those eligible for receiving state aid, cannot successfully advance for job opportunities, and remain desperately dependent to the slow bureaucratic procedures.
In the meantime, according to a recent study of the Research Committee of the Greek Parliament, 2,5 million people are found below the minimum income line, i.e. referred to the income that is not sustainable to acquire a minimum living standard, whereas 3,8 million people are at risk of poverty due to lack of income, shelter or food. In other words, and in real-economy terms, over 5,5 million people in Greece are either unable to pay their daily living or close to become so. In a population of around 11 million, more than 1/2 Greeks or citizens of Greece are considered poor.
As we have many times wrote over the past couple of years, the problem in Greece is so complex and unique that no study can effectively address it. Nor any politician can tackle it in absence of the necessary consensus by the entire political system. To a certain degree, the problem is found in the slow process of bureaucracy, the lack of cross-reference when dealing with annual income by the relevant authorities, the deep distrust over the tax system. On the other hand, the incompetence of the civil society to influence and affect decision and policy-making is also considered as a major drawback.
Under the current economic conditions, and in areas that the state cannot reach, there are some minimum efforts that can be assumed by private sector’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) through the civil society and the support of volunteer centers. The first recommendation is to guarantee food and shelter for everyone; the second one is to connect income policy with volunteer or social work and lifelong learning; the third one is the issuance of coupons for the purchase of basic goods and services that are not covered by the current social policy; the fourth one is the broadening of social clinics in highly-affected areas for the treatment of unemployed, people without social insurance, and immigrants.
However simple and rational such policies might sound, they demand a high mobilization and effective campaigning – and here is where CSR and well-known foundations can bring about developments, along with civil society organizations that do have the know-how and the will to proceed accordingly.Dimitris Rapidis