ATHENS – Wracked by austerity and beset by political instability, Greece has been hit so hard the last 5 1/2 years it ranks last among the European Union’s 28 countries on a social justice scale compiled by Germany’s Bertelsmann Foundation, which said that “the bailout package measures have aggravated existing social problems.”
The report put Greece below Romania and Bulgaria and a score of 3.61 points, far below the EU average of 5.63 points and far behind top-ranked Sweden at 7.23.
The index takes into account poverty prevention, equitable education, labor market access, social cohesion and non-discrimination, health and inter-generational justice, with Greece scoring below the 5-out-of-10 mark in every category and a particularly low 2.43 in poverty prevention.
Greeks have been put under pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings since successive governments began asking in 2010 for what turned into three bailouts of 326 billion euros ($357.86 billion) the country’s leaders said can’t be repaid even as they keep asking for more – that come with more brutal measures that created record unemployment, deep poverty and rising suicide rates.
The German non-profit foundation found that EU-wide, 27.9 percent of children and young people are threatened by poverty or social exclusion compared with 26.4 percent in 2007.
In the four countries that have been hit hardest by the crisis – Spain, Greece, Portugal and Italy – the combined rise is more than 5 percentage points, from 28.7 in 2007 to 33.8 percent, corresponding to 1.16 million children in these four countries alone.
In Greece, the percentage of the population that was found to be at risk of poverty or social exclusion rose to 36 from 34.6 percent in the 2014 index, underscoring, the report says, “the ongoing dramatic state of social affairs in the country.” It also found that the share of children and youth at risk of poverty and social exclusion has reached 36.7 percent from 35.4 percent last year. In Spain, this figure is at 35.8 percent and in Portugal 31.7 percent.
“Since the onset of the crisis, the share of those affected by severe material deprivation in (Greece) has nearly doubled and stands currently at a 21.5 percent,” the report adds, according to Kathimerini.
It noted that the rise has been particularly acute among seniors over the age of 65, where the percentage of people suffering material deprivation has risen to 15.5 from 13.7 in 2014.
On the upside, Greece still has the fourth-best score on the issue of healthy life expectancy. People in Greece can expect an average of 64.9 healthy life (or disability-free) years.
The study concludes that Greece “finds itself among the bottom five in all six dimensions that comprise this index and ranks last in three of these dimensions (labor market access, social cohesion and non-discrimination, and intergenerational justice).” It says that “the crisis has had a devastating effect on poverty and social exclusion,” adding that “the bailout package measures have aggravated existing social problems.”