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top 10 facts about poverty in Greece
Although Greece may be known for its crystal clear blue waters, luxurious islands and fascinating ancient architecture, it is currently going through one of its greatest economic crises in Greek history. Here are the top 10 facts about poverty in Greece:

Top 10 Facts about Poverty in Greece

  1. Europe measures poverty using a metric called “relative poverty”: According to diaNEOsis Research and Policy Institute, people who live in relative poverty “have income that is lower than a set percentage of the economy’s median income. In Europe, the relative poverty threshold is currently set at 60 percent of median income”.
  2. Between 2011 and 2015, the relative poverty population increased by more than 1 percent.
  3. The percentage of the total population living in extreme poverty has rapidly increased in the past decade. Extreme poverty in Greece can range from 182 euros per month for a single member suburban or rural household, to 905 euros per month for parents with two children living in Athens and paying rent. In 2009, the percentage of the population in Greece living in extreme poverty was about 2.2 percent. In 2011, the percentage was 8.9. In 2015, extreme poverty levels stood at about 15 percent.
  4. Jobs are especially difficult to find for young people living in Greece. Half of the people between the ages of 15 and 25 are out of work. In some areas of Western Greece, youth unemployment is over 60 percent.
  5. Between 2008 and 2016, nearly half a million Greeks left the country. A year before Greece’s debt crisis arose, an exodus began. The main motive of the emigres was to find work.
  6. The Prime Minister of Greece, Alexis Tsipras, wants to raise the minimum wage in Greece. According to a New York Times article, Tsipras “has vowed to reverse some of the harshest austerity after August. He wants to raise the minimum wage and possibly restore unions’ collective bargaining power, which was cut under the terms of the bailouts”.
  7. Greece’s Red Cross provides various services to those in need all over Greece. The Hellenic Red Cross has 75 offices and 42 committees. Their work includes centers for social support and integration of refugees, free vaccinations for infants and children, health services and education programs, housing assistance for the homeless and much more.
  8. One of the nonprofits in Greece called Boroume (which translates to “we can” in Greek) serves over 20,000 meals a day to those in need and helps to reduce food waste while increasing the food supply in over 80 locations in Greece. Boroume has provided those in need over 20 million meals since 2011 and has a team of over 700 volunteers. The organization has also saved and distributed over 100 tons of fresh vegetables and fruits.
  9. By April 2018, there were over 51,000 migrants and refugees in Greece. Many of the Syrian refugees paid smugglers to help them cross the Aegean sea to get to Greece. They arrived on the island of Lesbos in Greece where they were not permitted to leave until their requests for asylum were processed. If granted asylum, the refugees were allowed to go to mainland Greece and live in either subsidized housing or a refugee camp.
  10. The Hellenic Red Cross provides cash assistance to refugees stranded in Greece. They help asylum seekers to buy necessities such as food, clothing and medicine. By December 2017, the Hellenic Red Cross had helped 2,750 people.

These top 10 facts about poverty in Greece are important to know in order to understand the impact economic crises has on its citizens. Although Greece is starting to recover from its crisis, they still have a long way to go.

Photo: Flickr

– Ariane Komyati

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

Causes of Poverty in Greece

Is there poverty in Greece? Yes. Among the countries riding the rising EU economy, Greece finds itself adrift with high unemployment and rampant poverty.

Since the 2008 financial crisis, several countries including Greece, Ireland, Cyprus and Portugal have relied on the EU and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for bailouts. All are rebounding except for Greece, which is now on its third bailout and has yet to see a decrease in its 14 percent poverty rate.

Many Greeks say the bailouts are not enough. With the highest unemployment rate in the EU at 23 percent and youth unemployment at nearly 48 percent, many Greeks believe that the causes of poverty in Greece include the bailouts themselves.

The EU and IMF have been cautious issuing the Mediterranean nation new bailouts, requiring the Greek government to enact several austerity measures. These measures have ranged from increasing taxes and cutting pensions to scaling back all government spending.

Austerity and Poverty in Greece

Many believe that these austerity measures are the causes of poverty in Greece. Increased taxes and pension cuts leave citizens with less disposable income, and in Greece’s case, nearly no disposable income. Being a largely service-oriented economy, consumer spending is the most important economic driver.

As spending falls, businesses tighten the belt and hire fewer or lay off workers. The first to suffer are young and inexperienced Greeks. Due to the inability of the Greece’s youth to find employment, many families subsist on parents’ or grandparents’ pensions, which are to be cut this year as part of the new round of austerity measures.

Many young Greeks have left the nest to head to the cities, where incomes are higher, and poverty is less prevalent. Greece’s rural population has experienced a contraction as a result, and food assistance lines in the city have grown.

There is some good news on Greece’s horizon. As part of a program to incorporate Syrian refugees into mainstream Greek society, the EU is planning on giving Greece 209 million euros. The money will help refugees with rent and living expenses and the new cash infusion could help move the economy forward, only time will tell.

The Greek government has also decided to issue bonds on the market. Finding a buyer for Greece’s risky debt will prove challenging, but if done, will prove to the EU that the economy is turning a corner.

The causes of poverty in Greece are many and systemic. After the global financial crisis of 2008 and the following austerity measures, Greece has had it rough in the last decade, but many can see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Thomas Anania

Photo: Flickr