Expensive consumer goods, cheap housing and electricity

Greece comprises 4 million households, with an average number of members at 2.82. Their purchasing power is the lowest among the old EU-15 members and their expenses as part of gross domestic product are second-highest among the EU’s current 25 members, at 67.2 percent, after Cyprus’s 67.7 percent, according to Eurostat’s latest consumption survey. The EU average is 58 percent, showing the low rate of consumption by the governments of the two countries. Each household in Greece spends 16,147 euros per year, against an EU average of 25,114 euros. The biggest spenders are households with two adults and two children. The main expenses are for housing (rent, maintenance, operating costs) which accounts for 21.9 percent of all expenditures, followed by food at 16.6 percent. The biggest shift by far in Greeks’ expenses has been in Internet and cellular telephony services, rising by 21.4 percent in the last five years. Telecommunications was probably the only sector where price drops were recorded, by 23.1 percent in the last four years – the steepest decline in the EU after Cyprus. By contrast, food items led in price increases, with 19.4 percent in the same period, again just behind Cyprus. Also high was the rise in costs of restaurant and hotel services, by 22.9 percent, and in alcoholic drinks and tobacco with 23.1 percent, mostly due to the special consumption tax. Property lovers The Spaniards, the Greeks and the Irish top the list of Europeans in the old EU-15 members who live in their own homes, Eurostat found. In Spain the rate is 84.8 percent, Greece follows closely behind with 84.6 percent and Ireland is third with 81.9 percent. In contrast, most Germans prefer to rent, as only 43.8 percent live in their own homes – the lowest rate in the EU. Greek house prices have risen 36.9 percent since 2000, the third-highest rate after Spain’s 62.5 percent and the UK’s 46.8 percent. Rents have risen 19.2 percent in the last four years, against an EU-25 average of 8.7 percent. Greeks appear among the unhappiest with their residential conditions, with 32.2 percent expressing dissatisfaction against an EU-15 average of 13.6 percent. The most important adverse factors cited are environmental noise pollution (22.6 percent), inadequate heating (20.3 percent) and limited space (19.3 percent). Prices of household equipment rose 14.6 percent, against an average of 9.3 percent in the 25 members. Greek electricity rates in Greece are among the lowest in Europe, at just 6.70 euros per kwh, having risen only 4.7 percent in the last four years. Greek heating costs are also among the lowest, 329.30 euros per 1,000 liters, higher only than Luxembourg’s 300 euros and the UK’s 273.80 euros. According to Eurostat, only 8 percent of Greeks have taken out mortgage loans, compared to 19 percent in the old EU-15 members as a whole. About 1 percent have two housing loans. In contrast, 44 percent of Swedes and Danes have taken out mortgages, with the Netherlands and Luxembourg following closely behind at 40 percent and 39 percent respectively. Greeks also appear as the most reluctant users of the Internet for banking services and shopping in the old EU-15 members.

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