Glimpse into Refugee Camps
Youth UnMuted is a platform that empowers and raises awareness of displaced youth through artistic modes of storytelling. The non-governmental organization engages refugees and migrant youth in community centers and refugee camps through pop-up style workshops in places like Lesvos Island, Greece. Youth UnMuted also seeks to educate others about the refugee crisis. For example, a new way it has attracted attention to this issue is through a 360 Virtual Reality (VR) experience to offer a glimpse into refugee camps.

360 Virtual Reality

The immersive experience was born in one of Youth UnMuted’s 2018 winter workshops, and functions as an educational tool to completely understand the components of a refugee camp in Greece. The VR experience offers people the chance to observe “the voices of young people and the context in which they are forced to live.” It also hones in on child refugees’ stories by telling them directly. The VR experience was developed and filmed in a Greek refugee camp. Children in the camp chose the parts of the camp they wanted to share and posed within the scene. Additionally, they assisted with the photography used to develop the program to offer a glimpse into refugee camps.

While Youth UnMuted released the VR experience before the COVID-19 pandemic, it is still relevant in the current climate. It shines a light on the dire and unsteady circumstances of those living in the camps. Young victims of forced migration already face marginalization, and COVID-19 only enhances the situation. For example, already-present tensions in Greek refugee camps have heightened over confirmed cases of COVID-19 due to overcrowdedness that physically and mentally affects health.

Drivers of Displacement

Poverty is at the root of the conflicts that child refugees and their families flee from. A lack of resources in one’s country is often the main reason for relocation. COVID-19 has a devastating effect on global economies and is likely to cause further displacement.

Youth UnMuted Workshops

The majority of displaced young people that Youth UnMuted meets in refugee camps are from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. This diversity can lead to some language barriers. However, the use of art in pop-up workshops has helped to mitigate this obstacle. It is the most impactful and cost-effective way to interact with children from various cultures.

In 2018, Youth UnMuted reached over 300 youth from May to June and more than 500 youth from October to December through its five-day workshops at refugee camps. The organization simultaneously raised nearly $19,000 in individual donations, $1,000 in grants and over $45,000 in Greek volunteer services.

Other Projects

The organization has tackled other projects, such as an online magazine that elevates refugee voices from Tijuana, Mexico and Greece, which currently has five issues. Amid the spread of COVID-19, Youth UnMuted has remained in touch with refugee camps. It provides pre-recorded sessions that teach mindfulness techniques and practices, gives writing prompts and provides ideas and themes for future in-person workshops. Youth UnMuted’s most recent project is Now You Hear Us, a podcast showcasing the voices of young people who have experienced displacement worldwide. Along with the VR experience, this project is a tool for education about migration and forced displacement. The podcast will feature newcomers in the United States, resettled youth in Canada, Youth Advisory Board members who now have asylum in Germany as well as young people in Greek refugee camps.

Youth UnMuted is an example of an organization seeking to educate others about the effects of forced displacement by giving people a glimpse into refugee camps. Through its efforts, many child refugees have found their voices.

Isabella Thorpe
Photo: Unsplash

Forced Child Begging
In many impoverished countries, especially Greece, India and Senegal, forced child begging is prominent. This practice means that parents or another group of adults will send children out on the streets to beg for money from tourists. With the COVID-19 virus, tourism has decreased drastically. This means that these children no longer have anyone to beg from, which is both good and bad. Child begging is very damaging to the children forced into it, but it is also how many families suffering from extreme poverty sustain themselves. Here’s what the impact of COVID-19 means for both child beggars and their families.

The Problem

Forced-begging is incredibly damaging for children. Not only does it put them in dangerous situations and leave them vulnerable to abuse, but it also keeps them out of school. If a child is being forced to beg by an adult who is not their parent, it can lead to them being separated from their families. Since this practice involves child trafficking, it is hard to record exactly how many children are victims of forced begging, and very little data exists on the issue.

While data in forced begging is almost non-existent, data on general child labor is more plentiful. Forced-begging takes place primarily in impoverished countries. In fact, child labor in general is overwhelmingly a sign of a poor country. According to data published by the United Nations Children’s Fund, in the world’s poorest countries, just over one in four children is involved in child labor. While this statistic may look bleak, it also means that if these countries were to become more developed, child labor would likely become drastically less prevalent.

An Unfortunate Necessity

Forced begging is also how many families keep themselves fed. In the era of COVID-19, child beggars face a number of hardships. First, they are at risk of catching the disease. These children spend much of the day on the crowded streets where they are exposed to many people and their risk of contracting the virus is higher. Second, there is hardly anyone left to beg from. According to data published by the World Tourism Organization, the change in international tourism in April 2020 was -97%. These families have lost a major source of their income, in a time when their country’s economy is likely struggling, especially if that economy relied heavily on tourism.

Solutions

The human rights organization Anti-Slavery has been fighting to end forced child begging for almost a decade. The organization works specifically to end forced child begging in Senegal, where child begging is commonly perpetuated through Koranic schools, where students’ schoolmasters will often require that the children beg. The organization has been working to get the government of Senegal to recognize how drastic the problem of forced child begging is, and to take action to prevent it.

Making sure that education is available to child beggars is also a vital step in getting these children off the streets. The World Bank has been working to support Senegal’s government in its efforts to improve education and bring education to poorer areas.

The drop in tourism hurting the forced child begging industry is both a positive and a negative; it could leave families without income, but it could allow child beggars a chance to get an education and stay off the streets. However, this outcome is only possible if education is available. When the tourism industry begins to grow again, it is vital that these children don’t return to the streets.

Sophia Gardner
Photo: Flickr

Hepatitis in GreeceThough hepatitis is a prevalent virus in countries throughout the world, Greece, in particular, has been facing difficulties preventing its spread. Recent economic struggles have negatively impacted the Greek health care system, leading to a lack of vaccinations. However, Greece is slowly but surely resolving the issues their healthcare system has faced, working hard to eliminate hepatitis. Here are seven facts about hepatitis in Greece.

7 Facts About Hepatitis in Greece

  1. In 2008, the vaccine for hepatitis A (HAV) became free to all children. Hepatitis A affects the liver and can be found in contaminated food and water. Between 1998 and 2006, the reported cases of HAV were highest among children up to the age of 14. Rates of infection have decreased, however, since the vaccine was made free. It has become essential in preventing cases of HAV, and instances of the virus will continue to slow over time.
  2. HAV vaccines are recommended for travelers visiting Greece. This is not just to prevent the traveler from getting HAV, but also to prevent asymptomatic patients of HAV from spreading it to others, as symptoms may not develop for 15-50 days after exposure.
  3. Immigrants are a high-risk group for hepatitis. Albania is a country with one of the highest rates of hepatitis B (HBV) in the world, and 65 percent of immigrants in Greece are from Albania. Though immigration may be a source of HBV in Greece, it is important to note that hepatitis B is preventable by vaccines, and combinations of antivirals have been proven to treat HBV in recent years.
  4. In recent years, Greece has gained access to studies of groups considered “high-risk,” to HBV. These high-risk groups include HIV positive patients, prisoners, refugees, pregnant women, and drug users. By studying high-risk groups and HBV patients within them, Greece has been able to gain more accurate data on the exact number of cases within the country, as well as preventative methods.
  5. Public-oriented programs targeting hepatitis control are working. The Viral Hepatitis Prevention Board (VHPB) has a very active presence in Greece and has assisted the Hellenic Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (HCDCP) in expanding its strategy from just addressing HIV/AIDS to addressing viral hepatitis as well. These programs work to educate Grecians on hepatitis, make vaccines more accessible to vulnerable communities and study existing cases of acute and chronic hepatitis.
  6. The most common risk factors for developing hepatitis C (HCV) in Greece are easily prevented. They include perinatal transmission and sexual transmission. However, the risk of transmitting HCV through medical procedures has significantly decreased. Sterilization and an increase in single-use syringes in hospitals have led to this.
  7. Many infected individuals are asymptomatic. After Greece’s National Public Health Organisation (NPHO) discovered that 75,000 of 300,000 carriers of hepatitis B or C were not aware that they were infected, the National Action Plan began requiring that Grecians born between 1945 and 1980 must be checked for hepatitis antibodies, in order to identify adults that have HCV but are asymptomatic. The goal is to eliminate HCV by 2030.

Although hepatitis is a virus found worldwide, Greece has faced its fair share of struggles grappling with it. Many at-risk are part of the most vulnerable populations in Greece: immigrants, people struggling in poverty, individuals who already have medical conditions, and those lacking access to medical care and education. However, treatments and vaccinations are always advancing. With improvements in the country’s economy and healthcare system, cases of hepatitis in Greece will continue to dwindle.

– Alyson Kaufman
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Greece: What Happened and How to Help
The economy and poverty in Greece are two subjects that connect to one another. Starting in 2010, Greece has been climbing its way out of an economic crisis. The country is slowly paying back billions of dollars in debt due to chronic fiscal mismanagement. In the last decade, poverty in Greece has grown rampant. Incomes have crumbled over 30 percent and more than one-fifth of Greeks are unable to pay rent, electricity and bank loans. Additionally, one-third of families have at least one member who does not have employment. Due to its financial downfall, over a third of Greece’s 10-million-person population is in poverty. Many citizens doubt that this nation will be able to turn things around fast enough and help those most in need.

5 Facts About the Growth of Poverty in Greece

  1. In 1999, the euro launched in 11 European countries. However, Greece did not meet the fiscal criteria due to its budget deficit and debt-to-GDP ratio.
  2. Greece adopted the euro currency in 2001 but did so by distorting its finances. During that time, Greece’s budget deficit was well over 3 percent. Additionally, it had a debt level above 100 percent of its GDP.
  3. In 2004, Greece held the summer Olympics in Athens. This cost the country approximately $12 billion, which it did not have.
  4. The United States suffered through a crisis of its own which triggered a global banking and credit crunch in 2007-2008. As a result, borrowing costs rose around the world, subsequently affecting Greece.
  5. The E.U. and International Monetary Fund granted $146 billion in loans to Greece over the course of three years in 2010. In exchange, Prime Minister Papandreou promised to cut spending and increase taxes.

According to economist and former finance minister of Greece, James Galbraith, the last decade will go down in Greek history as a period of asset-stripping, poorly funded health care and education, unemployment, bankruptcies and foreclosures, homelessness and even suicide.

The Good News

While financial devastation has affected Greece and its people, there is some good news. Greece now has more control than ever before when it comes to its economy. For the first time since 2010, Greece can borrow money at standard rates. The hope is that Greece will be able to pay back loans faster and with less burdensome contingencies.

How the United States is Helping Greece

The United States government and its people are attempting to help solve the issues regarding the economy and poverty in Greece. One way that people can help is simply by donating. Foundations such as SOS Children’s Villages works with children, families and communities to prevent family breakdown and ensure that children’s rights are met. Meanwhile, The Hellenic Initiative is an organization that is answering Greeks’ call by providing a critical safety net to families that the crisis hit the hardest along with their relief partners. By donating to one or both of these organizations, children who have experienced abandonment or became orphans will receive a second chance, vulnerable families will be able to obtain psychological support and Greek hospitals will be better equipped.

Greek Americans who have dual citizenship can also help solve the problem of the economy and poverty in Greece because many can still vote in Greek elections and use their voices to make a difference. As for appointed leaders, Americans can urge their senators and congressmen to continue supporting Greece by exporting defense articles, medical, construction, food processing, specialty agriculture and packaging materials. Another way to show leaders that helping Greece matters is by simply emailing or calling them.

Though it has been a tough decade for Greece and its people, everyone and everything is capable of resilience. It may take a while for the nation to fully recover, but it can get there faster with a little hope from its people and a little help from the United States.

Stacey Krzych
Photo: Flickr

IsraAID Responds to Global Crises
Based in Tel Aviv, Israel, the nonprofit organization IsraAID responds to global crises, such as natural disasters and poverty, and sends teams of volunteers to help those in need. After its founding in 2001, IsraAID responded to crises in over 50 different countries. Its expertise in crisis relief includes emergency aid distributions, pinpoint trauma support and prevention training for local government and non-government professionals. These are some of the global crises IsraAID has responded to:

Typhoon Ketsana in the Philippines

IsraAID sent its first mission to the Philippines after Typhoon Ketsana in 2009. Working in collaboration with local partner Operation Blessing International, IsraAID dispatched a team of nurses and doctors to assist in the emergency medical operations. In 2013, another typhoon devastated the Philippines, killing over 6,000 people, injuring more than 28,000 and affecting over 16 million people overall. IsraAID responded within 48 hours with its medical team on the ground less than four days after the event. It spent the first three days of its efforts assisting the local health workers in one of the many hospitals the typhoon had destroyed. After that, IsraAID spent the next two years operating with the local government, instigating programs in medical support, psychotherapy and the rebuilding of the fallen cities.

Earthquake in Nepal

After a major earthquake left Nepal in ruins back in 2015, IsraAID sent a team to help the local police force locate survivors and provide emergency medical treatment. This was a relief to the local authorities and medical personnel outnumbered by the number of injuries and the chaos that ensued. Working alongside the authorities and an emergency response from the Israeli Defense Forces, IsraAID volunteers risked their lives to save and treat the survivors who the rubble had trapped. IsraAID not only provided the immediate essentials of food, water, shelter and medical aid to the Nepalese but also focused its efforts on long-term recovery via farming, fishing and a new supply of clean water. It also provided psychosocial services to the victims, helping them cope with and build resilience in the wake of the tragedy.

The Dadaab Refugee Camp and Famine in Kenya

Since 2007, IsraAID has been sending emergency relief teams to the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya—the largest refugee camp in the world—to aid the victims running from violence and famine. Later in 2011, when a drought caused one of the worst famines to ever strike the Horn of Africa, IsraAID returned to Kenya with a distribution of food and relief items for the refugees and locals still suffering from hunger and chaos. It also offered that same assistance to the people of Turkana, Kenya’s poorest county. IsraAID has maintained a steady presence in Kenya since 2013, helping those in poverty and the refugee camp with medical treatment, water management and psychosocial support.

Refugee Crisis in Greece

During the refugee crisis in 2015, IsraAID responded by sending a team of volunteers to Greece. Special mobile units provided immediate medical and psychosocial aid, distributed supplies and identified particularly vulnerable groups, such as children. IsraAID volunteers also rescued refugees whose boats had capsized and provided sleeping bags to anyone who had to sleep on the ground. Throughout the crisis, the volunteers provided food, clothing, medicine and hygiene kits to the refugees, as well as psychotherapy training to the local government and non-government professionals so that it could better care for the traumatized population.

Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico

After Hurricane Maria devastated the Puerto Rican population in 2017, IsraAID responded with a Spanish-fluent team of psychosocial and medical support, as well as experts in water and sanitation. At the time, the country’s poverty rate was 43.5 percent and the unemployment rate at 10.3 percent, on top of 95 percent of the populace losing electricity as a result of the storm. IsraAID provided emergency relief programs in the distribution of food, water and basic supplies, medical treatment and mental support. The team then shifted focus to long-term recovery and implemented a system to provide water and sanitation to the people of Puerto Rico.

The aforementioned countries and many others have benefitted greatly from IsraAID’s support, and IsraAID responds to global crises to this day. The organization has even established ongoing training programs for water management, psychosocial services and other relief efforts in the countries listed above, as well as in Japan, South Korea, Haiti, Jordan and South Sudan. As IsraAID responds to global crises, those in need have a chance to lead better lives.

– Yael Litenatsky
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Corruption in Greece
When the Greek economy began to publicly collapse in 2009, it started to drown in a depression the likes of which many could not handle. Instead, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund stepped in with the largest bailout in the history of global economics. Greece got a second chance for a price of 240 billion euros. Many expected this to mark an end to illicit financial practices in Greece, however, in the past decade, corruption has managed to stay alive and well in a country with a new lease on life. These are 10 facts about corruption in Greece to help better understand what is happening and why.

10 Facts About Corruption in Greece

  1. The Price One Pays for a Civilized Society: Oliver Wendell Holmes was an American Supreme Court Justice and not an expert on the Greek economy, however, his definition of taxes shall be important in these 10 facts about Greek corruption. It expresses the importance of paying taxes to maintain a civilized society. Tax fraud is rampant in Greece. When millions of citizens lie about their income to get away with spending next to nothing on taxes and large corporations do the same (albeit on a larger scale), the tax burden often shifts to the middle class. When life in the middle class becomes unaffordable, poverty grows and the problem seems increasingly unsolvable, eroding the public’s trust in its own institutions. Former U.N. special rapporteur on extreme poverty, Magdalena Carmona, stated that “Tax fraud perpetuates income inequality. A government that does not do everything it can to fight tax fraud is a government that is not doing everything it can for economic equality.”
  2. Crime and Lack of Punishment: Millions of Greeks take no issue with lying about their income due to the fact that there are little to no consequences for it. Greek citizens and officials expect their names to disappear in a void of red tape and missing files, and it works more often than not. However, despite the general sentiment that corrupt officials can get away with their crimes, former Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, leader of the New Democracy Party, began actively pursuing financial corruption in his government. Perhaps the most notable of his achievements was the arrest of former defense minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos. Prosecutors had reportedly given him a 20-year prison sentence after they determined that he might have stolen close to a billion euros from defense contracts.
  3. Fakelakia: Corruption thrives in places that have normalized it. Generally, bribes in Greece happen through small envelopes stuffed with cash to expedite services from household utility maintenance to hospital care. The practice is so common that fakelakia, meaning little envelopes in Greek, has become shorthand for bribes. Anyone can do it in Greece, from high-level officials to everyday citizens. In an effort to combat this, a young woman named Kristina Tremonti started an anonymous whistleblower website in 2012 for people to call out corruption without risking persecution. According to Tremonti, “names are not revealed for the whistleblower’s protection. Once a significant number of complaints have been lodged against a particular clinic or doctor the authorities are promptly notified.”
  4. Justice is for Sale: It is not just everyday Greek citizens who have become all too familiar with bribery. According to the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption group, the Greek judicial system needs more clearly defined rules concerning professional conduct and integrity for judges and prosecutors in the judicial system. As the system is now, it does not resolve corporate regulation cases in an efficient manner. When it does, “over a third of companies perceive the independence of courts as fairly or very bad.” In addition, almost half of all Greek citizens believe corruption to be a common practice in Greek courts.
  5. Corruption is Classic: While overhauling a nation’s government to root out corruption is certainly a victory, as Samaras began doing in 2014, the process can be a bit messier than most people might want to deal with. When a corrupt system is the only system with which people are familiar and it goes away, the immediate aftermath is a nation of citizens who do not know what to do next or how they should do it. Older generations suffer frustration that they can no longer fully utilize a system they have known all their lives. A Greek senior citizen reported to the Guardian that, “Nothing gets done anymore because it’s so much more difficult to bribe civil servants… Now nothing works.”
  6. Expectance of Failure Can Ensure Failure: The desire to hold on to as much money as possible is not the sole motivation for the tax fraud crisis in Greece, it is also about withholding that tax money so that a government the people perceive as untrustworthy cannot spend it. Without public funds to spend on health care, social security and school systems, all public services suffer as a result, thus reinforcing the public’s belief that the government doesn’t have what it takes to help them. In the early years after the financial crisis, under-the-table payments to doctors and clinics totaled 300 million euros or $334,949,950.66 U.S. Greece has made some progress in recent years, though, and now dental and health care costs have reduced by half.
  7. Many are Guilty of Corruption: Tax dodgers or corporations are not the only offenders of bribery in Greece. Corruption is so widespread in Greece that even rehab networks and humanitarian organizations have a history of doing things under the table for the sake of efficiency. The former president of Kethea, the largest rehab network in Greece, even went on the record saying, “Even agencies like Okana, dealing with the very sensitive issue of drug addiction, have been found to have abused funds on a massive scale.”
  8. For the Record, There is not Always a Record: When people do not include economic activities in national records to avoid paying indirect taxes to the proper authorities, they are part of a country’s shadow economy. Obviously, funds that go into a shadow economy are nearly impossible to track, but the majority of funds in the shadow economy are the result of undeclared employment. Getting payment under the table means fewer taxes for everyone involved. The issue may not seem too pressing, however “various studies have calculated that the shadow economy makes up between 20 to 30 percent of GDP [in Greece], an unusually high percentage for a developed country.” To put that into solid numbers, the shadow economy took up 22.4 percent of the total economy in 2015. That means 40 billion euros went unaccounted for that year.
  9. Holding Greece’s Corruption Accountable: Through these are 10 facts about corruption in Greece, financial and political corruption are prevalent all over the world. That is why a bipartisan bill sponsored by Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) called The Combating Global Corruption Act proposes requiring the U.S. State Department to rank countries on a three-tier system. Countries compliant with anti-corruption regulations would rank as a first-tier country whereas countries like Greece with a history of apathy towards rooting out corruption would rank as a third-tier country. This bill would let U.S. officials put money into anti-corruption policies with seized resources. Essentially, those who helped perpetuate global poverty would have to pay to clean up their own mess.
  10. Ninety Years of Financial Instability and Still Going Strong: Greece gained independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1830. The Greece that the world knows today is almost two centuries old and for 90 years of that time, it was either in the middle of restructuring debt or in default.

Despite Greece’s challenges with corruption, it is slowly moving in the right direction through Kristina Tremonti’s whistleblower website, government efforts and the reduction of costs for health care services. With the implementation of The Combating Global Corruption Act in the U.S. and Greece’s internal efforts to reduce corruption, these 10 facts about corruption in Greece may disappear into the past.

 – Nicholas Smith
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Greece
The life expectancy age in Greece has been at a constant 0.22 percent increase since 2015. Out of all the countries in the world, Greece ranked at number 31 in 2019. The current average age of life expectancy is 81 years old. There are many factors that affect this average but the main one is poverty. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Greece and how it relates to poverty.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Greece

  1. The CIA World Factbook reported that the average living ages in 2017 were 83 for women and 71 for men. This coincides with the current average living age of 83 for women but men have increased by at least seven years since 2017.
  2. Socioeconomic status and class tend to directly correlate with poverty. The unemployment rate in Greece is currently 15.3 percent, which is much higher than the average unemployment rate. Unemployment can put Greeks in a lower class range, thereby forcing them into poverty. According to the IFA, as one’s status decreases so does one’s life expectancy.
  3. Access to good health care can affect life expectancy because if one has better access to health care, they could live longer. In Greece, public health care has been chronically underfunded and the country does not have an integrated health system making it harder for Greeks to receive proper assistance. Greece is trying to transition into a new health system to improve health care. These efforts include focussing on promotion and prevention in order to provide public health service at a regional level and district level.
  4. The Changemakers is an organization that started a competition called Destination: Change. New Solutions for Greece. It is meant to help find sustainable and systemic solutions for problems in Greek society. It looks at how to reduce issues like poverty which may affect the rate of life expectancy.
  5. In 2018, poverty rates increased by 6.7 percent in Greece and Eurostat data stated that more than 20 percent of Greeks have “severe material deprivation.” This means that there is an inability to afford items suited for a quality life among individuals and families in Greece.
  6. Help Age International is an organization that measures how elderly populations are doing in various countries. It conducted an annual study that shows how the elderly population in Greece have the poorest quality of life in Europe. Greece ranked 79th in quality of life compared to 96 other countries. Although Greece’s life expectancy is higher than the European average, more than 19.3 percent of its population is elderly. Understandably, health care and finances might impact the elderly’s life expectancy. Life expectancy is high but the quality of life among the elderly is not.
  7. Poverty rates in Greece are increasing and more Greeks are at risk of being in poverty. The financial crisis Greece encountered has caused a lot of this. Greece currently owes the European Union 290 billion euros. An article by Greek reporter Nick Kampouris stated that since 2018, “34 percent of Greeks are in danger of living in poverty.”
  8. The World Health Organization is trying to improve the quality of health care in order to improve life expectancy. It works in 150 different countries working to provide quality health care to those in need, and in turn, helps improve life expectancy. Greece has a representative who gives and collects data concerning its population.
  9. According to a report from the OECD in 2017, over the past 10 years, “Despite stalling in 2007, 2012 and 2015, life expectancy at birth is now over a year higher than it was a decade ago in Greece.” This is due to the fact that many Greeks reported being in good or very good health in the years following 2015.
  10. A BBC travel article published in 2017 stated that the Island of Ikaria has the highest life expectancy rate in Greece. Katerina Karnarou, a local of the Island of Ikaria, happens to be the oldest woman in Greece. People of this island often live longer with many citizens living past 90. Their diets and active lifestyles are what permits them to live so long and rank them as one of the top five locations with the highest life expectancy.

Poverty tends to have a huge impact on life expectancy in Greece. Poverty impacts socioeconomic status, health or living conditions, which all influence the longevity of each citizen. When more Greeks are falling towards the poverty line, they may find it challenging to access what is necessary to live a long, healthy life.

– Jessica Jones
Photo: Flickr

Greek EconomyIn May 2010, Greece experienced its first economic bailout from the International Monetary Fund and the European Union to rebuild the Greek economy. As a result, Greece was given $146 billion in loans. Greece suffered economic frailty, in part from hosting the 2004 Olympic Games, the global economic crisis, and switching to the euro. Then, in August 2018, Greece received its final loan from European creditors. This loan signaled the end of the bailout program that began in 2015. To work toward financial security, Greece has committed to running a budget surplus until 2060 and accepting continued support from the EU.

Despite this financial turmoil, tourism presents a bright light for the Greek economy in increased revenue. Tourists’ interest in Greece began to boom during the 2004 Olympics, held in Athens. Although the Olympics have been cited as the main cause of the economic crisis in Greece, tourist industries in Athens were surveyed and concluded “the Games upgraded the validity of Athens on the international tourist market.” Since the 2004 Olympics, Athens, on average, has lengthier tourist stays than other major urban destinations, such as Paris and Barcelona. Athenian hotels have also become more efficient since the Games. And ticket purchases for historical sites have also seen an incline.

Tourism Helps the Greek Economy

This surge in tourism has sparked a large revenue intake for the Greek economy. In 2018, travel services in Greece reported an intake of 16 billion euros, approximately $18 billion, up 14 million euros since 2017. They attribute this surplus to a 40 percent increase in travel receipts and a 53 percent increase in travel sales. That year, the effect of tourism on Greece’s gross domestic product was an estimated 20.6 percent, reaching $44.6 billion. In fact, this is double the global average of 10.4 percent. This means one out of every five euros spent in Greece stems from travel and tourism.

Greece is happy with how tourism initiatives have been implemented in the past several years. The country also acknowledges 988,000 jobs lie in its tourism and travel industries. In 2019, Greece expects this job market to reach 1 million jobs. As such, travel and tourism is the largest employer in Greece. Minister of Tourism of the Hellenic Republic Elena Kountoura has noted Greece’s plan for the continued growth of the tourism sector: “We intend to maintain Greece’s strong momentum in tourism and maximize its benefits for the local communities across Greece, acknowledging tourism’s immense value as a major driving force for employment, economic and social prosperity.”

The reparation of the Greek economy has developed a dependence on tourism and travel. From the deep blue waters of the Aegean Sea to historical sites such as Delphi, people from all over the world flock to witness a small piece of Greece’s beauty. What they may not realize, however, is they are working to support an economy on the mends. And the positive effect of tourism will continue to increase annually, as Greece works toward financial stability.

Claire Bryan
Photo: Flickr

Greece
The past decade has not been kind to Greece. The global recession in 2008 ravaged its markets and cut wages, leaving millions destitute and reliant on government handouts to survive. Despite the fact that a relatively large portion of Greece’s population is educated, many still cannot find employment within national borders. An ongoing EU bailout in the magnitude of billions of dollars has not brought an end to the financial predicament of Greek citizens. Here are the top 10 facts about poverty in Greece.

10 Eye-Opening Facts About Poverty in Greece

  1. The Greek unemployment rate, though lower than it was in 2014, sits at 20 percent — a fifth of the population cannot find a source of steady income. It comes in at last of all countries in the EU.
  2. The government is still largely inefficient, and its bureaucratic functions are largely characterized by personal connections and a lack of transparency. The Tsipras administration, which came to power in 2015, has failed to affect significant change.
  3. The recent fires in Greece took 93 lives. Investigations have shown both the possibility of arson and insufficient responses from the government to have exacerbated the fires.
  4. Slightly over 34 percent of Greece’s population is deemed to be at risk of poverty — one of the most unnerving facts about poverty in Greece. However, without government handouts and pensions, this figure would leap to nearly 51 percent.
  5. The Greek brain drain remains high, though slowing down in recent years. Over 130,000 postgraduates have left Greece since 2010, a trend that bears dire consequences for the future of Greece if they do not return.
  6. Greece’s GDP has recovered somewhat since its implosion in 2008. GDP growth was estimated at -0.2 percent in 2015, 0 percent in 2016 and 1.8 percent in 2017. GDP is a measure of economic performance and individual wealth, and last year’s small surge is good news for a country whose GDP had shrunk by a quarter from 2007.
  7. The fertility rate in Greece went from a local high of 1.5 births per woman in 2009, to a low of 1.29 in 2013 and steadily climbed (though very slowly) to 1.33 in 2016. Too-low fertility rates result in an aged and reduced workforce that cannot meet the demands of the market, culminating in a lack of competition and economic decline.
  8. Facts about poverty in Greece relating to children are the worst off in the European Union. The poverty rate for minors stands at 45 percent, according to a report by UNICEF in 2017.
  9. After a decade of international economic bailouts and austerity packages valued at nearly 250 billion euros, or $288 billion, Greece is due to stop borrowing by the end of this summer. If it maintains an efficient budget and pays back its debts, Greece can finally re-enter the international market as a self-sustaining economy.
  10. In March 2018, the Bank of Greece reported a 7 percent drop in the number of nonperforming loans or unpaid loans. At about 43 percent, it still has major hurdles to overcome; the EU average is below 10 percent.

Hope on the Horizon

Despite the palpable negativity of these top 10 facts about poverty in Greece, hope is on the horizon. The economy is better off now than it was at the height of the recession; though growth is slow, consumer confidence has grown and individual spending has increased in the past year. Foreign investment is also mounting — an indication of international expectations of an economic recovery.

Greece’s government is the crucial actor. If it blunders in its management of foreign debt and continues its streak of opacity, Greece could head towards another economic recession. If it initiates sizeable social and economic reforms ahead of expectations in the international community, Greece could even reach past its previous economic heights before the recession. Time will tell.

Alex Qi
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Greece
In 2010, Europe fell into a deep financial crisis that brought Greece to the edge of bankruptcy and “triggered a surge in unemployment [and] poverty.” For the past eight years, the situation has remained bleak. However, a new Eurozone debt-relief deal reached on June 22, 2018, offers the potential to reduce poverty in Greece.

The Crisis Explained

The financial crisis in Greece began after the global recession of 2007 to 2009; a recession that was sparked by the United States’ housing market crisis and which affected countries around the world. A few months after the end of the recession, the Greek government announced that for years it had been underreporting its budget deficit. This created a loss of confidence in the Greek economy and led the country to be shut out of financial markets. As a result, Greece was unable to pay its increasing debts.

With the threat of Greek bankruptcy and another European-wide financial crisis, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Central Bank and the European Commission began an international bailout program for Greece.

Greece received international bailouts three times, in 2010, 2012 and 2015. However, these bailouts came with conditions: Greece was required to overhaul its economy and implement harsh austerity measures including severe budget cuts and steep tax increases. Pensions were cut and public assets were sold. Though these measures kept Greece from descending into bankruptcy, its economy continued to suffer and unemployment and poverty rates surged.

The Crisis’ Effect on Poverty in Greece

Only 2.2 percent of the population lived in extreme poverty in 2009. By 2013, this number reached 17.1 percent. Between 2008 and 2016, the rate of unemployment increased dramatically, from 7.8 percent of the population to 23.6 percent. Hundreds of thousands who are employed hold low-paying, temporary jobs.

In addition, household incomes have dropped by one-third since the beginning of the financial crisis, and the number of people who are homeless leaped from 11,000 in 2008 to 40,000 in 2016. The dire financial situation has greatly impacted a majority of Greeks: in 2014, 95 percent of Greece’s population stated it had difficulty coping financially.

Over the past eight years, many local and national organizations have formed to aid poor people and provide them with food and shelter. However, these organizations do not have the resources to aid everyone and are unable to create the large-scale economic change that is required to improve Greek lives. The Eurozone debt-relief deal reached on June 22, 2018, has this ability.

The New Debt Relief Deal

Greece’s third international bailout program is set to end in August 2018. In preparation for the end of this program, Eurozone finance ministers met to discuss possibilities to address the continuing crisis. During talks in Luxembourg on June 21 through 22, 2018, 19 Eurozone nations reached an agreement that the European Union Economic Affairs Commissioner, Pierre Moscovici, signify the end of the Greek crisis.

The new debt-relief package has been hailed as both “historic” and “momentous.” The deal will provide Greece with an extra 15 billion euros in loans during July and August 2018. In addition, the Greek government will receive a 10-year extension to pay back its loans from the three international bailouts, which includes low-interest rates. The deal will ultimately reduce the country’s dependence on the IMF and other European countries. There is also hope that it will reduce poverty in Greece.

Though Greece’s debt is still 180 percent of its GDP and progress will take time, the new deal can positively impact the country’s financial situation. The broad improvements in Greece’s economy can stimulate job growth and ultimately reduce the number of people in poverty.

– Laura Turner
Photo: Flickr