Hard times for young

Among Greeks aged 16 to 24, unemployment is officially 23 percent. This is not a temporary phase, as on occasions in the past, but is showing signs of becoming a fixture, as a result of falling wages and the proliferation of new forms of work (temporary, part-time, on contracts, services with receipts). Data from the National Statistics Service (NSS) show that in the first half of 2006, 41 percent of employees in the private sector earned monthly salaries of less than 750 euros, while 77 percent earned less than 1,000 euros. Of those working on temporary contracts, 61.9 percent earned less than 750 euros and 89 percent earned less than 1,000 euros. Part-time workers fared even worse, with two out of three earning no more than 500 euros a month. The vast majority of them (eight out of 10) were women. And this doesn’t even take into account illegal labor and the exploitation of migrants. When the official poverty line (considered to be very low) is 850 euros a month (net, with 14 salaries a year) for a four-member family, it is easy to see how families where only one member has a job and part-time workers fall into a state of dire poverty. «One in three households where only one adult has a job are below the poverty line,» said Kikilias. «In the past, one worker would support an entire family; now they cannot even support themselves,» said economist Dimitris Kazakis. Young people are joining the work force at a time when new informal, more elastic forms of work are intensifying inequalities among workers, both in terms of wages and of social insurance, Aliki Yiotopoulou-Marangopoulou pointed out in recent research by the Marango-poulou Institute on human rights. Significantly, the NSS found that 43 percent of those who work part-time in Greece did not wish to do so (compared with 17 percent in the EU-15). Poverty now strikes the very young, with 19 percent of Greeks under the age of 16 officially in the ranks of the poor. Families with children are more likely to be poor (20.4 percent), while 31.8 percent of families with three or more children are poor (well above the average). Despite concerns about low population growth, no substantial aid goes to multi-member families. Single-parent families present a great and growing problem: In 2004 37.5 percent of them fell below the poverty line, and 40.7 percent in 2005. Pensioners and the elderly comprise what is probably the largest group among the poor, with 28 percent of them living in poverty. This may not be a new phenomenon, but the difference is that these are no longer people in villages (where a low income may still secure a decent standard of living), but large numbers of pensioners who live in cities. Unacceptably low pensions, together with a loosening of family support systems have made things much worse for the elderly.