A man feeds seagulls with food scraps under an overcast sky, in the port city of Piraeus, on Monday. [InTime News]
Greeks ranked lowest among 24 countries in Europe for the second time in terms of their ability to pay their bills in 2020, according to the annual European Payment Report published by Intrum, which also found that nearly half saw their incomes drop as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
According to Intrum, 52% of Greek respondents left their bills unpaid in 2020 and 62% of them said this was a regular occurrence last year. Nearly half (49%), moreover, saw their incomes drop because of the health crisis, recording the highest ratio on Europe, while only 17% said their income remained the same or increased in 2020, against a European average of 38%. A significant majority, or 70%, of those who saw their incomes shrink also reported slashing non-essential expenses, and 31% said they looked for additional work to help offset their losses.
The drop in income had a clear impact on basic expenses, as nearly seven in 10 Greeks said that mounting bills took a toll on their standard of living, against the European average of 47%, while more than one in six saw their obligations rising faster than their incomes or revenues.
The Intrum survey also found that the combination of rising costs and dropping incomes put Europeans deeper in debt, with 61% of respondents in all 24 countries admitting to using credit in 2020 to pay their monthly bills, against 52% in 2019. In Greece, just 20% of respondents resorted to credit to pay their monthly dues, with 74% of respondents adding that they are hesitant to take on new or additional debt.
Greeks who do save reported putting money aside for emergency expenses, for the possibility of losing their jobs or other income sources, and to help their children and/or grandchildren. Six in 10 also said they saved less in 2020 compared to before the pandemic.
On the upside, Greece scored well in terms of financial literacy, climbing four places compared from 2019 to second place.
Intrum found that six in 10 Greeks have made financial security one of their key priorities since the start of the pandemic, with five in 10 actively seeking to improve how they manage their finances. To achieve this, 55% get their information from the internet, 49% from school and 45% from their parents, against the respective rates of 38%, 49% and 64% in 2019. Just over half (51%) also said that they are taking steps to improve their financial literacy in order to deal with the uncertainty caused by the pandemic.