Overall: Greece ranks as the worst performing country in terms of social justice. The country finds itself among the bottom five in all six dimension that comprise this index and ranks last in three of these dimensions (labor market access, social cohesion and non-discrimination, and intergenerational justice). Regarding this edition’s special sub-index on children and youth, the country comes in at place 24th.
Challenge: The crisis has had a devastating effect on poverty and social exclusion. The bailout package measures have aggravated existing social problems. The share of people threatened by poverty or social exclusion has increased once again in comparison to last year’s survey: 36 percent of the total population is now at-risk-of poverty or social exclusion. The rate for children is at 36.7 percent, for older people it is at 23 percent. The gap between old and young in terms of poverty have strongly increased over the last years with young people harder hit by poverty and social exclusion. Moreover, the share of children living under conditions of severe material deprivation has more than doubled from 9.7 percent in 2007 to today’s 23.8 percent. Cuts have also impaired health care services and quality, with mismanagement exacerbating problems.
Challenge: A thriving and socially just economy requires high employment rates in good, well-paying jobs. Greece, however, falls dauntingly far off the mark. The country’s score of 3.42 in the dimension labor market access places it last among the 28-member EU. In 2014, only 49.4 percent of working-age Greeks were employed, the lowest rate in our sample. While this employment rate shows a moderate improvement over the previous year, it is 12 percentage points lower than the rate seen in 2008. Older Greek workers, those 55 to 64, have the lowest rate of employment in the EU, just 34 percent were employed in 2014. A worryingly steady decline in the number of these workers can be seen since the first SJI in 2008. The ratio of women to men active in the labor force is likewise low (0.71 in 2014, rank 27). Looking at the Greek labor market from the perspective of the unemployed, it becomes clear how much must still be done. The country’s overall unemployment rate, 26.7 percent in 2014, is the highest in the EU. As with the employment rate, a moderate improvement can be seen over the previous year, but the number of unemployed is still nearly 19 percentage points higher than it was in 2008 and far higher than the EU average of 17.8 percent. The share of the long-term unemployed, those out of work for a year or more, has drastically climbed in recent years: from 3.7 percent in 2008 to 19.5 percent in 2014, which is the highest rate in our sample. These long-term unemployed are at greater risk of poverty and social exclusion. Young Greek workers face an uncertain future. The unemployment rate of these 15-to-24 year olds has more than doubled since 2008 to 52.4 percent (again, by far one of the highest rates in the EU). In addition, many of those who are employed find themselves in temporary employment. Indeed, 86.3 percent of Greeks in temporary work could not find a permanent placement.
Challenge: Greece also ranks last (with a score of 4.20) in the dimension of social cohesion and non-discrimination. In terms of the Gini coefficient, a measure of income inequality, Greece ranks 24th. In addition, Greece has the second highest NEET rate in the EU. In 2014, 28.4 percent of 20-to-24 year old Greeks were neither employed nor participating in education or training. This rate is modestly better than the 31.3 percent seen in 2013, but remains distressingly far from the 15.8 percent seen in 2008. If unresolved, this high rate of inactive young adults threatens to seriously destabilize the country over the long term. Given these already poor indications, it may come as little surprise that the country’s social inclusion policies were assessed by the SGI researchers to be the worst performing in the EU (receiving a score of 3 out of 10). The experts determine that “past governments’ negligence in anti-poverty measures and social exclusion policymaking have left those most vulnerable in Greek society unprepared to sustain the effects of the economic crisis.”(91) Social assistance NGOs and the Orthodox Church have intensified their charity work and “the traditional extended Greek family, often including family members over three generations who pool resources, has served as a solution of last resort for the poor and the socially excluded.”(92) Greece’s non-discrimination policies fared little better, ranking 23rd with a score of 5. The experts point out that, though protections have been enacted both domestically and at the EU level, “legislation against discrimination has rarely been implemented. In the period under review the Greek state was unable to contain, let alone roll back, the outbursts of racial violence which periodically spread through neighborhoods of Athens with a high concentration of migrants from South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.”(93)
Challenge: Greece also ranks at the bottom in terms of intergenerational justice. The country is one of the demographically “oldest” countries in the EU and carries also the highest public debt (177 % of GDP). Although budget deficits have been scaled back through the implementation of harsh austerity policies, the debt level has risen again. The fiscal burdens for today’s young people as well as future generations are thus immense. At the same time, investment in research and development is very low (0.8 % of GDP).
91 Sotiropoulos/Featherstone/Karadag (2015), available at www.sgi-network.org.
Labor Market Access
Social Cohesion and Non-discrimination
Source: Berterlsmann Stiftung: Social Justice in the EU –Index Report 2015
(AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)