Greece is the only EU country not to have implemented a guaranteed minimum income and is among the most sluggish in adopting programmes to address social inequality and aid citizens living in extreme poverty and social exclusion, a new report from the Parliamentary Budget Office (GPK) has found.
This is despite the fact that six in ten citizens are living in or at risk of poverty, the GPK report (pdf), which was published on Thursday, said.
“The demand for social responsibility on the part of citizens is pronounced but what the state offers is characterised by fragmentation and administrative problems. Thus the social safety net is characterised by inefficiency, while at the same time there is are no expectations that income lost due to the economic downturn will be replenished in the near future,” the report stated.
The government has said that, this month, a new €20m, six-month pilot programme will begin in 13 municipalities which will provide what it says is a minimum income. Monthly payments will range from €200 a month for a single person on no income to €400 for a married couple with two underage children with no other earnings.
Those payments will still leave recipients below the poverty line, which the GBK report sets at €432 a month for one person or €908 for a family of four.
The GPK singled out specific social groups which it said deserved “special care”. These included the long-term unemployed, new entrants to the labour market, uninsured workers, breadwinners on low incomes, the self-employed, the elderly and people with disability.
“These groups have experienced the accumulation of debt, the loss of purchasing power, reduced incomes and increased taxes,” the report added.
The report listed Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark, Finland, Netherlands Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Sweden as the countries with the most robust guaranteed minimum income programmes.
Most programmes combine cash payments as well as payments in kind, such as free medical care in Cyprus. Commonly, each country requires that applicants have a minimum number of years of legal residency in order to benefit. Some countries also limit the benefits to their own citizens, although Cyprus is the only state not to have any such restriction.
According to the GBK report, entitled “Minimum income policies in the EU and Greece: a comparative analysis”, 2.5 million citizens are already living below the poverty line in Greece, with a further 3.8 million at risk of poverty.
The report set the poverty line –the minimum level of income deemed adequate in a particular country – at €432 a month for one person or €908 for a family of four.
The threshold for those deemed to be at risk of poverty, ie those whose income is 60% or less of the general average, was €665 for one person and €1,397 for a family of four.
The report also said that the minimum household costs (excluding rent and mortgage payments) in Attica, which includes the Athens, was €233 for one person and €684 for a family of four.