Sustainable Policies


Economic Policies

Still hampered by the lingering effects of financial crisis, Greece remains the lowest-ranked country (rank 41) in the SGI 2019 with regard to economic policies. Its score on this measure has improved by 1.1 point relative to its 2014 level.

The effects of the pandemic arrested the country’s progress toward recovery. Following a trend of modest growth, GDP plummeted by 9% in 2020. Government crisis spending boosted the deficit to 10.1% of GDP in 2020, falling to 7.6% in 2021. Debt surged to 206.3% of GDP in 2020.

The main unemployment rate continued to fall through the pandemic from 19.3% in 2018 to a low of 13.3% in late 2021. Though still high, this is a vast improvement over the last decade. Long-term unemployment makes up the largest single share of this amount, and undeclared work is common. A new labor law increases the flexibility of work time.

Tax evasion remains widespread, and the tax base is narrow. The new government has reduced social security contributions and property taxes. R&D spending is low in cross-EU comparison. The country turns out highly skilled researchers, but is also experiencing a serious brain drain.

Social Policies

With a number of weaknesses and inefficiencies in its safety nets, Greece scores relatively poorly (rank 34) with regard to social policies. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.8 points relative to 2014.

The government expanded the primary healthcare workforce and doubled ICU bed quantities during the pandemic. Healthcare system performance was good in 2020, but declined in 2021. The share of children at risk of poverty or exclusion is high, largely due to the high level of unemployment. The long-term exclusion of young people from the labor market is a serious challenge.

Public education spending is skewed toward the tertiary level, but is often misspent. Secondary school outcomes have declined. Pre-primary education is now compulsory beginning at age four. Childcare burdens typically fall to women. Family support has improved over time, but female labor force participation rates remain low.

Considerable social attention is paid to pensioners. Pensions keep most senior citizens out of poverty, but the old-age dependency rate is high, and the system is not sustainable. The number of incoming refugees fell in 2020 and 2021, but Greece has remained unable to manage the inflows. Social integration has never been a focus of Greek migration policy.

Environmental Policies

Lacking a strong focus on ecological matters, Greece scores relatively poorly (rank 35) with regard to its environmental policies. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.2 points as compared to 2014.

New laws have clarified environmental protection rules and changed land use regulations. More green investment is likely. The promotion of renewable energy has increased, with the country having significant solar, wind and tidal resources. The last coal plant is slated to close by 2025. Greenhouse gas emissions began declining after 2010 as a consequence of the economic crisis.

Nevertheless, the country is far behind in this area. Power stations and transport services pollute heavily, and tourist activities and construction degrade coastal zones. State structures do not control urban development, infrastructure projects or consumer behavior well. Unregulated agriculture, transport, tourism and fisheries are harming biodiversity.

Recycling has increased only modestly, and waste management is not systematically practiced. The country is already struggling to manage manifestations of climate change such as wildfires and heavy flooding.

Robust Democracy


Quality of Democracy

Despite free and fair electoral procedures, Greece falls into the lower-middle ranks (rank 24) with regard to democracy quality. Its score on this measure is unchanged relative to its 2014 level.

A recently passed law has somewhat improved the transparency of political party funding, but monitoring has proved ineffective. A plan to expand local referendums has been postponed. Judicial appointments have become less politicized. The government resorted to governing by decree during the pandemic.

Declining revenues have made media organizations more susceptible to government influence. Government funding to media organizations for a COVID-19 campaign was distributed on the basis of political or unclear criteria. Journalists have been mistreated while covering protests or migration issues. The structure of media ownership is becoming increasingly oligopolistic.

Civil rights and political liberties are generally well protected. LGBTQ+ rights have expanded in recent years. The poor conditions faced by refugees and migrants in detention centers have improved somewhat. Popular opinion has been increasingly hostile toward refugees. Anti-corruption mechanisms have become better organized, but more resources are needed.

Good Governance


Executive Capacity

Despite very significant gains under the current government, Greece falls only into the lower-middle ranks (rank 29) with respect to executive capacity. Its score on this measure has improved by 1.5 points as compared to 2014.

The current government has reorganized the executive, replacing the Prime Minister’s Office with the Presidency of Government. This includes strategic planning units, and it coordinates government policy across ministries. A new directorate in each ministry is responsible for liaising with the Presidency and other ministries, substantially improving overall coordination.

Significant steps have been taken toward depoliticizing the civil service and high ministry positions. RIAs are newly required for all bills submitted to parliament. Ex post evaluations will be required five years after passage. New mechanisms have been introduced to encourage ministers to implement the government program.

Societal consultation has been limited during the pandemic. The appointment of skilled managers has improved the efficiency of regulatory enforcement, but the government has still proved reluctant to sanction some powerful interest groups. The government has increased pressure on local authorities to realize national standards.

Executive Accountability

With a mixed oversight record, Greece falls into the middle ranks internationally (rank 21) with regard to executive accountability. Its score on this measure marks a gain of 0.8 points relative to 2014.

The parliament has robust formal oversight powers despite a mismatch between committees and ministries, and members have adequate resources. The audit office has detached itself from the government over time. The ombuds office is popular and widely used, and the data-protection office is quite active.

Citizens are not well-informed about government policies due to the predominance of partisan and infotainment-focused reporting. The performance of the state-owned media has improved. Misinformation was widespread during the pandemic, undermining public health campaigns.

The major political parties have become more open to democratic participation. Interest associations make relevant policy proposals in economic areas, though they had little input during the pandemic period. Civil society is relatively underdeveloped, with associations rarely contributing to policymaking in a proactive way.
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