Greek pensioners’ grey spot in the poverty zone

After the settlement of the banks’ social security issue, with the relevant clause now being implemented, the government is now turning its attention to two broader fields: The labor and general social security issues. The labor issue is considered high priority, and the extensive draft law prepared by the Employment Ministry that is to be tabled over the summer includes two quite contentious clauses. The first refers to the reform of overtime employment; the second, to the confirmation of working hours. Securing the consent of the General Confederation of Greek Labor (GSEE) to the clauses regarding the reduction of overtime payment and the institutionalization of the bosses’ right to manage time (although it happens informally in all companies) is highly unlikely. The overarching dialogue on the social security issue will not open before the fall. A starting point for organizing the discussion will be the period straight after the opening of the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) in early September, where the prime minister will deliver the traditional keynote economic policy speech. Nevertheless, the long-term discussion about finding the resources on which the next generation’s pensions will depend contains a kind of age racism. As the research presented by the Institute of Regional Development of the Panteion University and the Greek team representative of the Survey on Health, Aging and Retirement in Europe (SHARE), the aging problem in Greece brings to the surface some interesting aspects about growing poverty among today’s pensioners as well as the great stock of an unused workforce. Consequently, the prime minister’s TIF speech should be expected to refer to the creation of a national pension system, with the incorporation of the EKAS supplementary sum in lower pensions. The survey dramatically reveals that by 2040, Greece will spend as much as 20 percent of its gross domestic product on pensions, while having a particularly high share of people aged over 65 living below the poverty line. This share would be even higher than that in the US, the report suggested. The situation for pensioners gets worse when the socioeconomic index includes the number of each household’s members as well as its net income. Greece comes last in this chart (with an income of 10,059 euros), far behind Spain (at 16,469 euros). Atop the list stands the Netherlands (52,521 euros), Switzerland (46,284 euros) and France (41,049 euros). Greece’s redeeming feature is the particularly high percentage of home ownership, with more than 80 percent of over-65s owning their own house. Pensioners in Greece show virtually no participation in private insurance programs, while a seemingly paradoxical element is at work: Their inability to work, based on the percentage of incapacity pensions, goes down instead of rising following retirement. Also interesting is that Greece and Austria show the smallest share of incapacity pensions, just 3 percent, as interviews of 17,731 people aged between 50 and 65 in 10 European countries have shown. On the contrary, in Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands, this share ranges between 14 and 16 percent.

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