ECONOMY

Greek poverty level causes concern

The high rates of families owning homes and consuming their own produce lessens the risk of poverty in Greece, according to a study by the Bank of Greece. The report notes that the risk of poverty has remained steady over the last 10 years, at 20-22 percent, but falls to 17 percent when the income or consumption calculated includes the gain from living in your own home and consuming self-produced goods, and from services given free to households from third parties. The poverty level is defined by the European Union’s statistics service (Eurostat) as a disposable cash household income equal to 60 percent of the median disposable income for the total population. About two million Greeks (20-22 percent) live below this level. A similar conclusion is reached on the basis of the index of the «relative gap» or «depth» of the risk of poverty, which describes the income situation of individuals living below the poverty level. In particular, the index measures the distance of the median of poor people’s income from the poverty level as a percentage of the poverty level. For incomes in the 1994-2002 period, this index varied between 28 percent and 32 percent, without any clear trend over time. In 2003, however, there was a sharp drop to 24.5 percent from 30.5 percent in the previous year. Put more simply, the median of poor people’s income in 2003 was 24.5 percent lower than the poverty level and was equal to 75.5 percent of the poverty level (which equals 60 percent of the median income). This means that poor people’s median income equalled 45 percent of the median household income. Among those aged 65 or over, 28 percent were living below the poverty line. Of the poor, only 32 percent are employed gainfully, 8 percent are jobless but seeking work, 27 percent are pensioners and the remaining 33 percent are not economically active. Of this last group, three-quarters are women. Such inequality is usually calculated with the use of statistical inequality indices, such as Gini, Atkinson or S80/S20. The inequality in the distribution of the cash disposable household income declined in Greece, as in most other EU members, in the 1994-2000 period. In this country, the ratio of the share of income of the richest 20 percent of the population to that of the poorest 20 percent fell from 6.5 in 1994 to 5.7 in 2000. Over the same period, the Gini fell from 35 to 33. But both indices rose again in 2002 and fell to previous levels by 2004. Living standards According to the family budget surveys drawn by Greece’s National Statistics Service (NSS) in 1999 and 2004, the level of inequality and poverty has remained rather stable. However, living standards have shown improvement. In particular, the rate of households owning a second home rose from 14.5 percent to 18.33 percent between the two dates, the rate of households owning at least one mobile phone more than doubled, while almost all households possess a color television and a fixed-line telephone. Also the rate of households owning a computer rose from 12.1 percent to 34.02 percent. The use of closed parking spaces doubled and the rate of households owning a private car went up from 52.3 percent to 66.62 percent. The median of the equivalent consumer expenditure of the richest 20 percent remained steady between 1999 and 2004, at 5.90 times larger than the median equivalent consumer expenditure of the poorest 20 percent of the population.