Friday, 19 September 2014

Percentage of people in Greece at risk of poverty rises, tops EU list


Photo by Harry van Versendaal Photo by Harry van Versendaal

The percentage of people living in Greece who are at risk of poverty rose substantially last year and almost a quarter of the country's population now falls into that category, which is the highest proportion in the European Union.

Understandably, the plight of the worst off in Greece often grabs the headlines. But it is easy to overlook the fact the crisis is pushing more people who once had reasonably comfortable lives to the margins of society. The new data, which excludes the most socially vulnerable such as homeless, irregular migrants and Roma, leaves little room for doubt that this process is well underway.

According to the latest figures from the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT), 23.1 percent of people in Greece were at risk of poverty in 2012. This is compared to 21.4 percent in 2011 and 19.7 percent in 2009, shortly before the crisis broke out.

In total, 914,973 households and their 2,535,700 members are considered as being at risk of poverty.

The poverty threshold is considered to be 5,708 euros per person or 11,986 euros for each household that has two adults and two dependent children under 14. The risk of poverty threshold is 60 percent of the median of the total equivalised disposable household income.

The worst-affected groups are single-parent households with dependent children, two thirds of which are at risk, and unemployed males. Just over 52 percent of men without jobs are at risk of poverty, along with 26.9 percent of children under the age of 17.

However, the threat of hardship also affects those with work. More than 27 percent of Greeks with part time work are considered to be at risk of poverty, while the same applies for 13.4 percent of those with full time jobs.

Without social transfers, almost half of Greece's population would be living at risk of poverty. It is worth noting, though, that social spending has been cut considerably over the last few years. According to the 2014 budget, social transfers were reduced by 6.8 percent between 2012 and 2013. They are due to be cut from about 17 billion euros this year to just under 14 billion next year – a cut of more than 18 percent.

When the element of social exclusion is added to the data, the results become even more worrying, as 34.6 percent of the population was considered to be living at risk of poverty or social exclusion in 2012. When these two categories are combined, Greece has the fourth highest percentage in the EU, behind Bulgaria, Latvia and Romania.

When only the "at risk of poverty" rate is considered, Greece ranks first, half a percentage point ahead of Romania in second at more almost three times the rate of Iceland, which takes the last place with 7.9 percent.