Greece came out worst among the bloc’s 28 member-states in the European Union’s annual report on social justice for 2015, reflecting the impact of the financial crisis on society, social cohesion and the competitiveness of the Greek economy.
The “Social Justice in the EU” report shows that not only is Greece the bloc’s laggard, but the situation in the country is deteriorating, with the gap between Greece and Romania – the second to last in the rankings – growing. Furthermore, the report indicates that the gap between the European North and South is also widening.
The social and economic inequality that has emerged in Greece during the crisis is now taking on a permanent structural character, while the local economy appears to be losing its most important comparative advantage – human capital.
The report examines six social justice sectors: poverty prevention, equal rights in education, labor market access, social cohesion, and the absence of discrimination in healthcare and justice. It argues that those sectors have seen a downturn across the EU in the last seven years, reaching their lowest point in the period from 2012 to 2014.
On the poverty and social exclusion front, the situation in Greece is particularly worrying, as 35.7 percent of the population faces the risk of poverty, with the figure for children even higher, at 37.8 percent, from 36.7 percent in 2014. The percentage of children living in conditions of serious material deprivation has grown to 25.7 percent from 23.8 percent in 2014 and 10.4 percent in 2008.
The situation is also disturbing in the labor market: In 2015 just 50.8 percent of Greeks of working age actually worked – the lowest rate in the EU. Although it posted a small improvement from 2014, employment remained 10 percentage points below its 2008 level.
The report warns of long-term destabilization in Greece, which is one of the demographically older EU states. The country has the highest public debt, the tax and social security burdens on young Greeks are huge (and will remain so for the next generations), while investment in research and development – vital for future economic development – are at an all-time low, at just 0.8 percent of gross domestic product.