About 800,000 households – accounting for a fifth of the country’s population – live in poverty, according to research published yesterday by the National Statistics Service (NSS). Women, the elderly and those who live in the countryside are the groups especially threatened by poverty. The poor also include a disproportionate number of less-educated people and face greater health problems. The NSS survey, which contains data from 2003, estimates that the poor are those with an annual individual income of under 5,300 euros. It also finds that the percentage of people living in poverty declined from 21 percent in 2002 to 20 percent in 2003. The survey’s main findings are the following: – 799,350 households, with 2,126,750 members, live in poverty. – Were it not for state handouts, the number of people living in poverty would rise to 39.8 percent of the population. – The percentage of women living in poverty (21.1 percent) is slightly higher than that of men (18.9 percent). – The age group suffering most from poverty is those over 65 (28.2 percent), followed by those aged 16-24 (23.5 percent). About one in five children up to the age of 15 (19.7 percent) live in poor households. The survey also found a discrepancy of 10 percent between men’s and women’s wages for comparable jobs. An apparently paradoxical finding is that 20.1 percent of households living in their own houses or apartments are poor, compared to 19.7 percent of those who rent their lodgings. This, the NSS explains, is due to the fact that 97 percent of farming households, where the incidence of poverty is double the national average, own their houses. An additional factor is the number of poor people who have built their own houses without a construction permit on the fringes of big cities, especially Athens. It follows from the above finding that there is an higher likelihood of poverty in lightly populated areas (41.3 percent) than in areas of medium- and high-population density, where the poverty rate is 25.4 percent and 13 percent respectively. However, the study distinguishes between rural and urban areas rather than between areas of high and low population density in urban centers. On the other hand, no high-density urban ghettos have emerged yet, despite the concentration of poor immigrants in certain neighborhoods. Amenities and needs Unsurprisingly, many poor households lack basic amenities: 12.2 percent have no inside toilet and 36 percent cannot afford to have adequate heating. In all, 60.2 percent of the poor cannot meet extraordinary expenses (such as illness) and 24.7 percent cannot pay for adequate nutrition; 41.1 percent of the poor have difficulty paying their electricity and water bills, 11.7 percent are behind in their rent payments and 9.5 percent face difficulties in paying back their credit card debt. (While it may seem unimaginable, another survey has found that 20 percent of credit cards have been issued to poor households.) Also, 82.2 percent of the poor do not have the means to pay for holidays. Being out of poverty does not necessarily mean a life of affluence. According to the survey, only 1.9 percent of all households claim to make ends meet «very easily.» Another 11 percent responded «easily,» 25.1 percent «with some difficulty» and 31.1 percent «with great difficulty.» Regarding the level of education of the total population – the education levels of the poor appear in parentheses – 2.9 percent failed to finish elementary school (6.5 percent), 36 percent have finished elementary school (52.1 percent), 12.5 percent have a junior high school education (14 percent), 28.6 percent have a senior high school diploma (20.6 percent), 4.3 percent have finished technical colleges or other post-secondary education institutes other than universities (2.8 percent) and 15.7 percent have university degrees (4 percent).