Righting wrongs of social security

The recent charges made by a workers’ group from IKA, Greece’s largest social security fund, alleging that some employers have been dodging their legal obligation to make payments into the fund, are of grave concern. Furthermore, their annual budget review revealed that the contributions not being paid into the fund are increasing every year. Last year alone, the amount of missing contributions reached an astonishing 1.8 billion euros. They also announced that one in seven businesses is not known to IKA, while one in six workers is uninsured. Social security contribution dodging, compounded by the accumulated debt owed to IKA – now reaching some 3 billion euros – are further burdening Greece’s problem-riddled social security services. And while being reminded of these growing problems every year may be useful, such reminders alone hardly provides sufficient basis to tackle them. A paradoxical phenomenon has been developing recently: Politicians and unionists are becoming commentators on the country’s realities rather than serving as levers that can right the wrongs. Of course, it is good that they express their opinions on a bad situation, but their first concern should be to deal with it directly. Many of the ills that have befallen the country’s biggest insurance provider can be traced to delays in modernizing their operations; only one-third of IKA offices have had their files computerized. A shortage of employees doesn’t help. Observations are useful and complaints necessary, but the unionized group lodging the complaints should ensure that the workers themselves do what they can to alleviate the situation. Unfortunately, the usual practice of public servants’ unions is merely to point the finger. Responsibility for the state of Greece’s social security funds (and other public services) does not lie solely with the workers. Their share of the load, in fact, is minor. But if unions want their criticisms to count, they must do more than simply state the obvious. Someone has to make the first move.