ECONOMY

Progress in fight against Greek poverty

A European Union report has found that Greece has made progress in tackling poverty and social exclusion in recent years, a Labor Ministry news release said yesterday. According to the report, titled European Policy against Poverty and Social Exclusion, which targets the identification of common problems and the exchange of experiences between member states, progress is judged on four criteria, namely the ease of access by citizens to employment and social services, the prevention of social exclusion, support for the most vulnerable population groups, and the mobilization of all parties concerned. The report notes that relative poverty in Greece did not increase during the 1994-99 period, despite rapid structural and technological change in the economy and changes in society, notably a weakening in the supportive role of the family. According to the 1999 Family Budget Survey, the percentage of the population living on income less than 60 percent of the median income – a standard measure of poverty, was 17 percent, down from 22 percent in 1997 according to data from the European Household Panel Survey. The report also found a continuous rise in spending on social protection in Greece, while the policy against poverty and social exclusion focused on increasing employment and featured innovative measures for protecting vulnerable groups. Last, it said that three new measures (a 200,000-drachma annual income supplement to households in underprivileged, low-income areas, a 48,000-drachma monthly benefit to last 12 months for the long-term unemployed aged 45-65, and a 100,000-drachma annual benefit for each child up to 16 years of age in low-income families) are expected to improve the picture further.