Pensioners numerous but many struggle

More than 1.7 million Greeks draw pensions, but a quarter of them live below the poverty line, according to national statistics. Pensioners comprise 16 percent of the Greek population. Their relative number is growing because of longer life expectancy and falling birthrates. Some have retired early, others have settled comfortably with large pensions, and still others are penniless. Poverty remains a problem for those on this kind of fixed income – especially retirees in rural Greece. In the Ionian islands, 44 percent of pensioners live below the poverty line. In Epirus, that figure rises to 50 percent. Most pensioners are between 65 and 74 years old. A third are between 55-65 years old, but were 46-55 when they retired in 1997. A third of those who had retired in the last eight years are farmers. An increasing number of salaried workers have also retired on pensions. A 2002 survey showed that «26.5 percent of pensioners in Greece (460,000) live in households that are below the poverty line; in other words, their income is less than 60 percent of the average,» said Ilias Kikilias, an economist researcher for the National Center for Social Research (EKKE), the organization which conducted the survey with the National Statistical Service (ESYE). «The picture is worse in the provinces, as the number of pensioners below the poverty line is 50 percent in Epirus, 44 percent in the Ionian islands, 40 percent in Central Greece and Western Macedonia, and 35 percent in Eastern Macedonia and Thrace, Thessaly and Western Greece,» he continued. «The general percentage of relative poverty in Greece, according to the same study, is 21 percent. At the same time, 27 percent of the poor are pensioners.»

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