Poor anti-poverty performance

BRUSSELS – A European Commission report out yesterday highlighted the serious failure of Greece’s welfare system in aiding the working poor. In fact, comparative data show the failure to be the most serious among EU member states. The report, based on 2006 data, shows Greece having the largest percentage of working poor and ranking second behind Latvia in terms of percentage of the poor population, with 21 percent. What is more, this is only part of the picture and does not include some «sub-proletariat» segments of unemployed or occasionally employed. The data indicate that 14 percent of households in which at least one adult is employed and whose members receive all welfare and other support benefits is near or below the poverty level. It is, again, the worst performance in Europe, where the average is about 8 percent. And almost one in four children (23 percent) grow up in families below the poverty line. The effectiveness of welfare policies also appears to be lowest in Greece. All types of benefits achieve only a minimal improvement, reducing the number of poor by just 9 percent, when the EU average (excluding Bulgaria and Romania) is 38 percent. In Spain, which emerges in the report with the second most inefficient welfare state, it was 17 percent. Sweden and Denmark head the list in the efficacy of welfare benefits in reducing poverty, with 59 percent and 57 percent respectively. Finland and the Czech Republic follow with 55 percent. Of course, poverty is a comparative rather than absolute term. The Commission defines Greek poverty as income lower than -1,183.4 in purchasing power parity for a four-member family, after taking into account the general income level of the population, price levels and a series of other factors.