Greece

   

Social Policies

#37
Key Findings
With safety nets strained by crisis, Greece falls into the bottom ranks (rank 37) with regard to social policies. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.5 points relative to 2014.

The country’s education system is heavily skewed toward the tertiary sector, with spending on pre-primary education very low. Young people remain excluded from the labor market in large numbers, with the NEET (not in education, employment or training) share among the worst in the OECD.

The long crisis has badly exacerbated poverty and social exclusion. Pensioners receive far more support than do other needy groups. A new minimum-income guarantee program provides income support, access to social services and job-market re-integration services. An effort to make health care delivery more efficient by focusing on primary care has stumbled due to an insufficiency of family doctors.

Family policies are underdeveloped, with women providing most child care. The country has been unable to manage refugee flows effectively, with residents of overcrowded camps suffering from human-rights violations and health risks. EU and NGO assistance has helped somewhat. Social integration is not a focus of migration policy.

Education

#37

To what extent does education policy deliver high-quality, equitable and efficient education and training?

10
 9

Education policy fully achieves the criteria.
 8
 7
 6


Education policy largely achieves the criteria.
 5
 4
 3


Education policy partially achieves the criteria.
 2
 1

Education policy does not achieve the criteria at all.
Education Policy
4
Education outcomes in Greece are close to the OECD average in math, reading and science. However, student performance on PISA tests have not shown any significant improvement in the last decade. Particularly in science, Greece had the largest decreases among PISA participating countries between 2006 and 2015, in an environment of decreasing public expenditure in education (a 6% decrease between 2014 and 2015).

Tertiary institutions are nominally autonomous, but the Ministry of Education is responsible for their funding as well as the distribution of students to undergraduate programs. Since the mid-1990s, governments have promoted a policy of opening university access, including the opening of admissions to universities and the establishment of new universities and departments.

Obtaining a high school diploma (rather than a vocational school qualification) is an aim sought by almost all families. Such a diploma, combined with success in nationwide university examinations, leads to access to tertiary education. Over time and in particular between 2010 and 2017, participation in tertiary education has increased. This achievement is probably due to the fact that there are no tuition fees for undergraduate studies at the 22 state universities and 14 state polytechnics (Technological Educational Institutes, TEI).

Access to tertiary education is, however, not equitable, as students from middle- and upper-class backgrounds are more likely to successfully pass entrance examinations. Moreover, to the extent their parents can afford it, Greek high school students receive extensive private tutoring before nationwide university entrance examinations. This reflects a cultural contradiction. While tertiary education is an entirely public-sector activity (i.e., university students pay neither tuition fees nor textbook costs and private universities are officially banned), success in entering universities depends on private tutoring.

In 2016 and 2017, the Syriza-ANEL government shifted more resources to education (for hiring new university lecturers), but other reforms have stalled or even been reversed – especially in tertiary education. Competency tests to pass a class (or grade) in elementary and high school have all but been abolished, timid efforts for teacher evaluation were largely abandoned, and the status of vocational training (in technical and professional high schools) has been further degraded to the benefit of general education in high schools (this latter trend has persisted for decades).

Meanwhile, the age-old patronage-based allocation of education resources continued. The Greek state spends less on education (4.3% of GDP) than the EU average (4.7%). In addition, public funds are misspent: the allocation of teachers in public schools and lecturers in university departments is often uneven, university libraries are under-resourced and housing for students is far from adequate. The distribution of infrastructure among university departments is generally unequal and academic and administrative staff are underpaid.

The education system is extremely top-heavy, with public resources channeled to sustain a large number of state universities and polytechnics, while private resources are used to pay for “cramming schools” which prepare 11th and 12th grade pupils for the nationwide university entrance examinations. It is unsurprising that Greece is ranked among the lowest in the OECD with regard to expenditure on pre-primary education. The primary and secondary education system is unevenly structured and resourced, while there remains a national fascination with university entrance examinations.

The quality of education across Greek universities is very uneven. Some university departments have a long tradition of excellence, such as the Athens Law School and most of the engineering departments of the National Technical University of Athens. Many other schools, however, including most polytechnics, are below standard.

In the period under review, the Ministry of Education introduced several measures that further reduce the autonomy of higher education institutions. In detail, the government again changed the law on university education, as it had done in the previous period. Major policy shifts included merging departments of polytechnics, which are scattered all over Greece, with nearby universities. This major reorganization was launched almost overnight and without prior planning or consultation with the affected universities.

As economic stagnation prevails, salary, pension and welfare benefit increases cannot be offered by the incumbent government. A solution to the government’s declining popularity has been the distribution of non-monetary favors. Examples include the symbolic renaming of polytechnics to universities, their “presidents” to “rectors” and the overnight transformation of professors of polytechnics into university professors.

In summary, Greece’s education system is one of the most centralized among OECD countries, with education policy suffering from politicization and a lack of policy continuity. The economic crisis and government policy have further exacerbated the mismatch between the allocation of resources and actual needs. Thus, the divergence between employment and education trends has worsened (for more, see Labor Market Policy).

Citations:
Information on the performance of Greece’s educational system is based on data provided on this SGI platform. Data on public expenditure on education is drawn on Eurostat, https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php?title=File:Total_general_government_expenditure_on_education,_2016_(%25_of_GDP_%25_of_total_expenditure).png
PISA / OECD 2015 Results http://www.oecd.org/pisa/

Social Inclusion

#35

To what extent does social policy prevent exclusion and decoupling from society?

10
 9

Policies very effectively enable societal inclusion and ensure equal opportunities.
 8
 7
 6


For the most part, policies enable societal inclusion effectively and ensure equal opportunities.
 5
 4
 3


For the most part, policies fail to prevent societal exclusion effectively and ensure equal opportunities.
 2
 1

Policies exacerbate unequal opportunities and exclusion from society.
Social Inclusion Policy
4
Since 2009, Greece has lost more than a quarter of its real economic output with dire social consequences. A study by the Athens-based thinktank DiaNeosis found that the earnings of 15% of the population were below the extreme poverty threshold. In 2009, that share was below 2.2%. Though Greece is not ranked among the worst-performing OECD countries with regard to income inequality or poverty, social exclusion is rather unusual for an EU country. The share of Greeks at risk of poverty or social exclusion was about 35% (EU-28 average: 23%).. Life satisfaction, which dropped after 2010 but was rising between 2013 and 2015, was again on the decline in 2016 and 2017.

Besides the economic crisis, a deeper challenge is the long-term exclusion of young people from the labor market, to which they remain outsiders. The share of young NEET persons is among the worst in the OECD. Another challenge is the enduring tendency of Greek governments to cater to the social needs of old-age pensioners much more than of any other category of welfare state beneficiaries. Typical government measures include distributing ad hoc social assistance benefits to selected categories of the population, hiring the poor and/or the unemployed in the public sector on temporary, five-month-long contracts, and counting on the family to fill in the gaps of a still inchoate social policy. Older family members, particularly if they are already retired, are expected to use their pension or other sources of income to live on, while also offering food and shelter to socially excluded relatives.

Finally, since early 2017, after considerable delays and under pressure from the country’s lenders, the government implemented a minimum income guarantee program called Social Solidarity Income (KEA) that is based on three pillars: 1) income support, 2) access to social services and goods, and 3) provision of support services for (re)integration into the labor market. The implementation of this long awaited national minimum income scheme is a positive development and undoubtedly a major improvement over all previous programs. However, the financing of the new scheme is not solidified and the program needs the establishment of permanent monitoring and impact assessment mechanisms to prevent the inefficient use of resources.

Complementary measures to fight unemployment (a major cause of rising poverty), such as participation in vocational education and training (VET), remain modest.

Citations:
Data on the poverty rate, GNI coefficient and NEET share in the age group 20-24 is provided by the SGI dataset on this platform. Data on the share of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion is available from Eurostat at https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/People_at_risk_of_poverty_or_social_exclusion
European Commission, The national roll-out of the “Social Solidarity Income” scheme in Greece, ESPN Flash Report 2017/68.

Health

#34

To what extent do health care policies provide high-quality, inclusive and cost-efficient health care?

10
 9

Health care policy achieves the criteria fully.
 8
 7
 6


Health care policy achieves the criteria largely.
 5
 4
 3


Health care policy achieves the criteria partly.
 2
 1

Health care policy does not achieve the criteria at all.
Health Policy
4
Since the onset of the economic crisis in Greece, there have been massive cuts in public and private health care spending. Since 2009, per capita spending on public health care has been cut by nearly a third. In 2015 (latest year for which OECD data are available), Greece spent €1,650 per capita on health care – over one-third less than the EU-28 average. This amounted to 8.4% of GDP (down from 9.9% in 2009, the last pre-crisis year). Moreover, only 59% of health spending was publicly funded. Private spending, meaning out-of-pocket expenses (which were rarely taxed), stood at 35% and was more than double the EU-28 average.

In 2017, the government announced plans to appoint family doctors in an effort to ease pressure on secondary health care. A new law provided for the establishment of local public health care units (TOMY). The new system should have offered a major improvement over the past. While in the right direction, the new system required that practicing doctors become family doctors (i.e., general practitioners responsible for a few thousand insured citizens each). Implementation of the new system confronted challenges as Greece lacks sufficient general practitioners. According to a study conducted by the Greek Health Ministry and World Health Organization, there are currently about 3,800 general practitioners in Greece when, according to the EU average, there should be around 8,140. In addition, specialized doctors (of whom Greece has an oversupply) had no incentive to provide primary health care under the newly established terms and were reluctant to enroll in a system which would tie them to predetermined levels of compensation. Meanwhile, patients continued to trust their own doctors, whom they pay out-of-pocket fees in their private practices. As a result, by the late autumn of 2018 only several hundred doctors had agreed to work with the new system.

Greece also remained one of the lowest spenders on the share of preventive health measures in total health care expenditures. In addition, in the period under review as in the past, the distribution of the 131 public hospitals across Greece remained highly uneven, resulting from a patronage-based selection process that determines where hospitals should be built. Furthermore, there were eight state medical schools in the country, producing hundreds of doctors every year. Medical school graduates, being unable to find a job in the public health care system (owing to spending cuts) or to establish a personal clientele, often emigrated to northern European countries (Germany, the Scandinavian countries and the United Kingdom) to practice medicine. At the same time, Greece faced a chronic lack of nurses (a low-status, low-paid job) and a similar lack of medical personnel in the periphery of the country, as most doctors preferred to work in the hospitals of the two largest cities, Athens and Thessaloniki.

In summary, while clientelistic structures in the provision of health care remain intact, there is a lack of long-term planning and programming with regard to preventive health care measures. In addition, there is a high volume of unrecorded and untaxed transactions between patients and doctors as well as a differential in health care access based on the purchasing power of households.

Citations:
Data on per capita spending on health, general healthcare expenditure and public/private spending is available by OECD at https://ec.europa.eu/health/sites/health/files/state/docs/chp_gr_english.pdf

Data on expenditure on preventive medicine is available on this SGI platform.

Τhe new law establishing the local heatlh care units (known as TOMY, see Law 4486/2017) around Greece was passed in August 2017.

Families

#32

To what extent do family support policies enable women to combine parenting with participation in the labor market?

10
 9

Family support policies effectively enable women to combine parenting with employment.
 8
 7
 6


Family support policies provide some support for women who want to combine parenting and employment.
 5
 4
 3


Family support policies provide only few opportunities for women who want to combine parenting and employment.
 2
 1

Family support policies force most women to opt for either parenting or employment.
Family Policy
5
Greece has one of the strongest traditions of family ties in Europe. In both urban and rural areas, grandparents often look after preschool children while mothers work, families care for their elderly or disabled at home, parents help around the house and feed the younger generation sometimes even into middle age. As a result, child care density is among the lowest in the OECD. If a family is poor, this condition also negatively affects child poverty. Indeed, Greece in the wake of the economic crisis is one of the OECD countries with the largest child poverty challenge.

Instead of focusing on the poor and children, the bulk of social attention is focused on pensioners, often regardless of their income level. However, in early 2017, after a very long preparation period, the government began distributing a benefit called Social Solidarity Income (see Social Inclusion).

Women provide child care at home and do not enter the labor market on an equal basis with men. This pattern has not changed significantly over time, even though between 2011 and 2017 there was an increase in female labor force participation. This slight change was owed to a drop in living conditions because of the crisis and the consequent drive of spouses and daughters to help with their families’ finances, particularly if male breadwinners had lost their jobs.

The best option for a woman entering the labor market would be to become a public employee. Notably, a young mother employed in the public sector receives much better support than a new mother employed in the private sector or self-employed. Female public employees are guaranteed their jobs following maternity leave. They are also granted maternity leave without fear that, on returning to work, they may be allocated to a subordinate job or suffer a wage cut, as is the case for women employed in the private sector.

The Greek state does not have a streamlined policy to reconcile work and family life but rather heavily depends on the European Union. Around the country, many low-income families benefit from European Social Fund (ESF) projects, which finance many municipal nurseries. During the period under review, ESF-funded municipal nursery places were in high demand, as these places enabled parents to seek work.

In summary, the Greek state does not have a streamlined policy to reconcile work and family life but rather heavily depends on the traditional behavior and structure of the Greek family and on the European Union.

Citations:
Data on child poverty, enrollment in preschool services for childrenn up to 5 years old and fertility rate is provided by the SGI data base on this platform.

Pensions

#38

To what extent does pension policy realize goals of poverty prevention, intergenerational equity and fiscal sustainability?

10
 9

Pension policy achieves the objectives fully.
 8
 7
 6


Pension policy achieves the objectives largely.
 5
 4
 3


Pension policy achieves the objectives partly.
 2
 1

Pension policy does not achieve the objectives at all.
Pension Policy
4
The Greek pension system is a pay-as-you-go corporatist system, based on a multitude of occupational pension funds. Pensions have become a major policy issue because Greece, along with Italy and Germany, has the largest share of the total population aged 65 and older in the whole of the EU (over 20% of the total population).

The system has been radically changed since 2010 by a range of reforms aimed at making the system more viable and limiting public expenditures on pensions. The latest 2016 reform (Law 4387) abolished all special arrangements, unified all pension fund schemes as well as rules on contributions and benefits under a new body (EFKA). This latest reform also established a general system of defined benefit pension plans and the introduction of a basic pension financed by general tax revenue. According to the law, the main pension is made up of a national pension (set at €384 at the full rate and financed by the state budget) and a “redistributive” pension calculated on the basis of the average reference wage over the whole working life, the length of contributions, and the replacement rate. Current pensions are to be recalculated by the new method and the resulting “difference” will be phased out gradually in late 2018.

In 2012, in the midst of the economic crisis, when fiscal constraints were supposed to be the harshest possible, Greece spent 17.6% of GDP on pensions, more than any other EU member state. The problem has grown since then and, in fact, the largest share of social protection expenditure is devoted to pensions.

The prospects of the Greek pension system are not good, as the country has one of the worst old-age dependency ratios among all OECD countries. Further, nearly one-third of the value of pension funds was lost, following 2009 due to surging unemployment and a fall in contributions.

The pay-as-you-go system, according to which the working population contributes to pension funds so that old-age pensioners can obtain their pensions, is unsustainable. Since the start of the economic crisis, pension funds have periodically faced the prospect of bankruptcy, as the number of people who work and contribute to social insurance is shrinking, while the number of pensioners is increasing. Notably, the proportion of people aged 55 to 64 in work in Greece is the lowest of any OECD country, except Turkey.

Moreover, pension policy does not meet intergenerational equity requirements. Existing arrangements primarily serve the interests of middle- and old-age groups at the expense of younger generations of workers. This is a constant pattern running parallel to the periodic trimming of pensions. In May 2016, the government passed legislation which increased social insurance contributions and reduced the supplementary pensions for retirees. New pension legislation has cut pension payments by up to 30%, while poor policy design led to continuous legislative amendments of the 2016 pension reform. The last phase of this reform is expected to take place in January 2019, when, based on the Memorandum of Understanding signed between Greece and its creditors in the summer of 2015, the government should implement further cuts on pensions. If implemented, such cuts will affect pensioners who had benefited from past early-retirement legislation, before the onset of the crisis or were pensioned off just as the crisis started. Owing to their sheer size, this is a segment of the retired population which no government has tried to displease.

While the pension reform of 2016 had positive aspects (e.g., the establishment of a nationwide management system and unification of previously fragmented private sector pension schemes), Greece’s pension system remains unsustainable. Bluntly, there are currently about 2.7 million pensioners, along with another 300,000 recent retirees, while the recorded number of Greeks working and paying insurance contributions is around 3.6 million.

Citations:
Data on share of old people who work and old-age dependency ratio is drawn on the SGI data set, available on this platform. Data on pension expenditure is drawn on Eurostat, available at https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Social_protection_statistics_-_pension_expenditure_and_pension_beneficiaries
European Trade Union Institute, Pension Reform in Greece, https://www.etui.org/ReformsWatch/Greece/Pension-reform-in-Greece-background-summary

Integration

#25

How effectively do policies support the integration of migrants into society?

10
 9

Cultural, education and social policies effectively support the integration of migrants into society.
 8
 7
 6


Cultural, education and social policies seek to integrate migrants into society, but have failed to do so effectively.
 5
 4
 3


Cultural, education and social policies do not focus on integrating migrants into society.
 2
 1

Cultural, education and social policies segregate migrant communities from the majority society.
Integration Policy
5
While the numbers of migrants and refugees have dramatically fallen since 2015, Greece has remained unable to manage the inflows of people fleeing war-torn and poverty-stricken regions of the Middle East and Africa. Between January and September 2018 about 21,000 migrants and refugees entered Greece. Most remained at reception centers or camps on the Greek islands facing Turkey, such as Lesbos and Chios. Owing to the March 2016 EU-Turkey agreement, they are not allowed to travel through Greece toward Western Europe. If they do not want to return to Turkey, their only option is to seek asylum in Greece. Owing to the long and inefficient processing of asylum applications, arriving migrants and refugees are stranded on the Greek islands. They live in squalid conditions, as camp capacity has been exceeded. Furthermore, Greek authorities have been unable to manage the camps in a way that would protect camp residents from human rights violations and health risks.

Thus, the March 2016 agreement between the EU and Turkey, which bounded Turkey to limit the flow of refugees passing to Greece, was only partially implemented. The Turkish government complained that it had not received the promised levels of financial aid from the EU for its cooperation. Meanwhile, the EU clearly distanced itself from the Erdogan regime, particularly after the aborted coup d’état in Turkey in July 2016.

EU authorities and NGOs continue to provide significant support, as the situation has overwhelmed local Greek authorities. However, this valuable support to desperate people arriving on Greece’s shores in small boats, does not extend to their educational and social integration. The integration of migrants (who arrived prior to 2016) into the education system has been functional in primary and secondary education. As for social integration, this has never been a strong focus of Greek migration policy. With the exception of Albanians, who probably constitute more than half of all migrants in Greece and first came to the country in the early 1990s, the country’s migrants – including migrants from Asia and Africa – are systematically excluded from Greek society. With regard to cultural integration, it is telling that there is still no official mosque for Muslims in Athens.

In summary, significant challenges in terms of policy efficiency remain and policy setbacks are now obvious. Greece must reduce human suffering inside refugee camps. By now this has grown to become a problem that obviously cannot be managed individually by the Greek state and will remain unresolved as long as the aforementioned EU-Turkey agreement is not fully implemented.

Citations:
Data is drawn on international press reports (New York Times, BBC) and is available at:
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/25/world/europe/greece-migrant-camp-mental-health.html
and at:
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-44660699

Safe Living

#36

How effectively does internal security policy protect citizens against security risks?

10
 9

Internal security policy protects citizens against security risks very effectively.
 8
 7
 6


Internal security policy protects citizens against security risks more or less effectively.
 5
 4
 3


Internal security policy does not effectively protect citizens against security risks.
 2
 1

Internal security policy exacerbates the security risks.
Internal Security Policy
5
Despite the crisis, homicide rates have remained stable (or even declined) and consistently far below the OECD average (1 per 1,000 compared to 3.6 per 100,000 inhabitants). The same is true for most other types of crime (e.g., robbery, burglary, assault and rape) reported to the police. This may be interpreted by social and resources-based factors. First, family ties remain strong in Greece and were further strengthened during the crisis when the unemployed and poor relied upon members of their kin for social protection. Second, with the exception of a few regions (e.g., the island of Crete), the circulation of firearms is very small and restricted.

It may also be interpreted by relatively high government expenditure on public order and safety (at 2.2% of GDP in 2016) that remain among the highest in the EU-28. However, this does not mean that there was extensive, let alone efficient, policing of Greek cities. Expenditure was primarily channeled to sustain a large police force. It is telling that Greece exhibits the largest public expenditure on policing among all EU-28 countries (1.4% of Greece’s GDP), though effectiveness is widely disputed.

Trust in the police is comparatively low. This is probably due to the unwillingness or incapability of the police to control several central neighborhoods in large cities where there are daily incidents of petty theft, burglaries, and drug use. Police protection for refugees and migrants from attacks by racist groups, including by militants of the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn, is clearly insufficient.

In the period under review, public opinion surveys noted a growing dissatisfaction on police inertia regarding (usually non-life threatening) violent protests. For example, there were frequent violent riots in central Athens organized by anarchist and extra-parliamentary left-wing groups. In almost all cases, the police, under the close control of the Minister of Citizen Protection, did not intervene to protect state and private property. Moreover, police stations were physically attacked by some radical left groups. The government has shown tolerance particularly toward groups which frequently engage in low-intensity violence (e.g., throwing paint against the buildings of foreign embassies in Athens or invading government or embassy buildings in order to distribute leaflets or smash windows).

In summary, while rates of some crimes (e.g., homicides and thefts) are low, there is an increase in security risks owing to uncontrolled violent political groups.

Citations:
Data on homicides and thefts as well as trust toward police, is drawn on the SGI statistical data available on this platform. Also, data is derived from OECD Better Life Index 2016, http://www.oecdbetterlifeindex.org/topics/safety/
Data on government expenditure on public order and safety is available from Eurostat, https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Government_expenditure_on_public_order_and_safety

Global Inequalities

#30

To what extent does the government demonstrate an active and coherent commitment to promoting equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries?

10
 9

The government actively and coherently engages in international efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries. It frequently demonstrates initiative and responsibility, and acts as an agenda-setter.
 8
 7
 6


The government actively engages in international efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries. However, some of its measures or policies lack coherence.
 5
 4
 3


The government shows limited engagement in international efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries. Many of its measures or policies lack coherence.
 2
 1

The government does not contribute (and often undermines) efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries.
Global Social Policy
5
Until the onset of the economic crisis, Greece was active in assisting less developed countries. Since the crisis began, the country has focused on managing its own domestic social policy problems. In 2017, Greece’s official development aid as a share of GNI stood at 0.16%, far below the OECD average (0.32%). This was a decrease of 15.8% in real terms from 2016 due to lower in-refugee costs (that are spent within Greece). In 2017, 22.7% of the Greek bilateral aid budget was in-refugee costs (compared with 39.8% in 2016). In the same year, 56% of Greek aid was multilateral. The largest recipients of Greek aid were Turkey (Greece’s contribution to the EU-Turkey refugee agreement) and Albania. Overall, because of constraints imposed by the ongoing economic crisis, Greece has not helped curb inequalities in developing countries. In general, the current Greek government has shown little interest in engaging in international efforts to help developing countries nor demonstrated initiative and assumed responsibility or acting as an agenda-setter within the international framework. It has, however, supported all relevant EU and UN initiatives.

Citations:
Data on Official Development Assistance is provided by Tables available on this SGI platform and from DAC / OECD https://read.oecd-ilibrary.org/development/development-co-operation-report-2018_dcr-2018-en#page65.
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