Greece is probably the only country that is constantly dealing with its pensioners. This single issue appears to be consuming the attention of the system – meaning the political class, the media, the judiciary (to a very large extent), unionists of all political hues, experts and pundits, thousands of agents in the public and private sectors and, of course, the pensioners themselves.
In other words, Greek society in its entirety is preoccupied by this particular issue.
Sure, there are several explanations behind this particularity that feeds Greece’s exceptionalism. Its pensioners make up a very large proportion of the population, the pension system has always been chaotic and inconsistent, and, on top of all that, the laws permeating the system (like most Greek legislation) are mostly nebulous and as a result require so-called interpretative circulars.
The excessive number of laws creates a labyrinthine landscape that is extremely difficult to navigate.
Meanwhile, it should be noted that pensioners, who also make up a large section of the electorate, are able to put pressure on political parties and are, at the same time, being exploited by them. The media operate (and, in fact, compete with one another) as self-appointed guardians and, overall, any demand or request on behalf of the pensioners is considered to be fair, regardless whether or not it is legitimate.
Begging and looting are regrettably habits we excel in. In recent years, you will have heard the presumably unshakable argument that pensions must be generous so that recipients can also support their financially troubled children and grandchildren.
To be sure, pensioners have a right to lead a decent life. The Greek welfare state fortunately takes relatively good care of its retirees. However, it really is totally out of order that a country’s exclusive concern is pensioners’ payments and retroactive claims. This is, after all, a country with grim demographic trends, where the national population is expected to drop by 2 million by 2050 and by between 5-6 million by 2080.
It’s a matter of survival that we change our priorities so that neither our children nor our grandchildren need to rely on the pensions of their elders.