BUSINESS

Greeks are sad and lonely but live longer, OECD study shows

By Leonidas Stergiou

Greeks feel depressed and lonely, work more than others and receive lower salaries compared with the OECD average. On the upside, they also live longer.

According to the latest Better Life Index compiled by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Greece is not the best country to live in, nor is it the worst. Yet having experienced a 25 percent decrease in incomes and an unemployment rate of nearly 27 percent, it languishes at the bad end of the member-country list.

The biggest problems for Greeks appear to be of a social and psychological nature. The happiness index gave Greece a reading of just 1.3 points out of 10 based on the interviews conducted by OECD researchers. Greeks also feel helpless and lonely, with 81 percent responding that they have someone to reach out to for help in times of need, against an OECD average of 90 percent.

The average annual income in Greece amounts to 15,726 euros, against an average of 17,728 euros in OECD countries. Employment in Greece covers only 56 percent of people against an average of 66 percent. Greeks work 2,032 hours per year, against 1,776 hours in the OECD, putting pressure on another qualitative index, the balance between work and a personal life.

Another negative factor for sentiment in Greece is the fact that it has the highest rate of university degree holders and at the same time of people who are unemployed. In other countries, owning a degree and having training generally opens the door to the labor market, though in Greece this tends to remain shut. The education level is also lower, according to the study, as Greek pupils scored 473 points in reading, writing and arithmetics against an OECD mean rate of 497 points.

Nevertheless, Greeks live longer, with their life expectancy exceeding 80 years despite living in a more polluted environment: Air pollution amounts to 31 micrograms per cubic meter, compared to an OECD average of 20 mg/c.m.

In other readings, Greece got just 2.1 points out of 10 in incomes, with the US getting full marks; in transparency this country scored 4 points; in labor it got 4.1 points, same as Mexico and Estonia; in social relationships it came fourth from bottom with 3.2 points, but its educational system fared better than Britain, France and Spain, scoring 6 out of 10.

On a more positive note, the Greek health system got 8 out of 10, above the OECD average, thanks to its very small social exclusion rate, and security scored 8.7 points.

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