Greece's debt crisis has made its population the unhappiest not only in western Europe but also in comparison with people in some former Communist countries, a study showed on Tuesday.
The “Life in Transition” survey conducted by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the World Bank has questioned households across a broad region since 1991 as the Cold War came to an end, but Greece was included for the first time this year.
Over 92 percent of Greeks said the debt crisis had affected them, with 76 percent of households suffering reduced income due to wage or pension cuts, job losses, delayed or suspended pay or fewer working hours.
Only one in 10 Greeks were satisfied with their financial situation and only 24 percent with life overall, compared with 72 percent in Germany and 42 percent in Italy, the two western European countries used as comparisons. The figure was 48 per cent in post-communist countries.
Austerity measures demanded by international creditors have been tough on Greeks. Pensions, for example, have been reduced by about a third since the crisis began in 2009. The leftist-led
government is still at odds with lenders over labour reforms and a projected fiscal gap in 2018.
Only 16 per cent of the respondents in Greece saw their situation improving over the next four years, compared with 48 per cent in post-communist countries and 35 and 23 per cent in Germany and Italy, respectively.
“This signals that, despite the recent political changes and attempts at economic reforms that have taken place in the country, Greeks do not see their situation improving for the foreseeable future”, the report said.
The poll of 51,000 households in 32 countries showed a closure of the “happiness gap” between Western Europe and the EBRD region from Morocco to Mongolia, partly because satisfaction had declined in Germany and Italy since the euro crisis.
It also showed the financial crisis has left many countries less tolerant of immigrants and that corruption remained relatively high. People in Russia, Turkey and Ukraine were on average less satisfied with life than a decade ago.
EBRD chief economist Sergei Guriev said countries could only make a success of transitioning from being centralised economies to more market-driven ones if the process is “perceived by the public as being fair and of benefit to the majority.”
“If the public does not see the benefits of the reforms, they will ultimately not be successful,” he said.