New European study updates profile of average Greek family

Slowly but surely, Greece is following in the footsteps of the rest of Europe, with a growing number of divorces, single-parent families, more unmarried couples living together, and more marriages among divorced people, according to IPROSEC, a three-year European Union-funded survey. The study recorded socioeconomic change in Europe and the national policies that governments have adopted to deal with it. It focused on changes in family structure and relations among family members, as well as the interaction between them and policy. The findings show that the family is becoming less of an institution in Greece, though faith in the family has not been shaken nor has there been any breakdown in the close contact between different generations in each family. In Greece, as in Italy and Spain, young people don’t leave their parents’ home until they have a job and somewhere to live. With the family as the basic support network, decisions about starting a family, housing and work take into account the family support network rather than any state policy on the family. For example, the lack or poor quality of nursery schools, especially in rural areas, impels young couples to live nearby or with the extended family. Flexible work arrangements may ensure family-friendly arrangements, but they are not implemented in such a way as to facilitate workers’ family arrangements. In fact, they have been cited as the cause of economic, and hence of family, instability. Tele-working, part-time work, leave without pay for family reasons, parental leave and flexible work hours are not implemented in such a way that workers can make the most of them. In this respect, the public sector is more supportive of workers than the private sector is. In a number of EU member states, national legislation is not put into practice by businesses which have not yet developed a high level of sensitivity about workers’ private lives. The IPROSEC study was conducted by a network of social scientists in eight European member states (Britain, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Spain and Sweden), who polled the representatives of political and economic organizations in each country. The final report is due next month. In Greece, the work was done by a team from Panteion University, headed by Professor Loukia Moussourou and lecturer Maria Stratigaki. Postgraduates Dimitra Taki and Spyros Trifon and undergraduates Anna Kassimati and Vassiliki Saini made significant contributions. «Families can solve their own problems,» Moussourou told Kathimerini. She claims that one of the most significant findings was «the great variety of family biographies we encountered and the unexpected frequency of cohabitation among unmarried couples. What was also apparent was the close contact among different generations within the family and the manifest belief that families can indeed solve their own problems.» She also commented on the large amounts families spend on health and education, and the need for economic support of families, especially for children. The researchers expressed their astonishment that of all the organizations that took part in the survey, only one non-governmental organization mentioned the existence of a provision in the Greek Constitution for the protection of the family.