Greek households feel the pressure
News media on Saturday reported that 21 percent of Greek households earn just enough to keep them above the poverty line. This percentage is the highest among the former 15 EU member states. The National Statistics Service released this data, but the pro-PASOK media mostly ignored it. That’s because the statistics come from 2003, when former prime minister Costas Simitis and his Socialist party were in power. The data underscore the gap between the party’s reformist mantra of a strong social state and the grim reality of deepening poverty. The late Andreas Papandreou, the former Socialist prime minister who also founded PASOK, often referenced the existence of a «two-thirds society» – describing the exclusion of the other, impoverished third – but he did little to fix it. The recent statistics show that 33.2 percent of Greek households live below the poverty line – a figure quantified as an annual income of 4,741 euros, which is 60 percent of the average per capita yearly income. That figure drops to 21 percent after factoring in various social benefits. The data also show the social repercussions of poverty on much of the Greek population. For example, 46 percent of households are unable to cover emergency and basic expenses, 52 percent cannot pay for the cost of a one-week holiday, and 37 percent are struggling with monthly expenses such as rent and electricity and telephone bills.