Journal of Population Ageing

, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp 247–267 | Cite as

Knowledge is Power: Public Attitudes and the Stalling of Pension Reform in Greece

  • Platon Tinios
  • Stavros Poupakis


Pension reform delays were a crucial part of the mechanism leading to the Greek crisis of 2009. The reason for these delays was frequently cited as the hostile stance of public opinion to any change in pensions. It is thus important to examine what lay behind these attitudes, and the reasons why these public objections had not been overcome. The international bibliography stresses that attitudes to pensions may be affected by the extent of understanding of pensions and that public opinion may in this way be open to persuasion. However, where there exists cross-subsidisation between occupational groups, selective knowledge may also operate defensively as a means of protecting the status quo. Thus there could be two dimensions of understanding, one helping and the other hindering change. A nation-wide sample undertaken in Greece by the authors in May 2009 attempts to disentangle the two influences, by drawing a distinction between general understanding, and particular awareness of one’s occupational pension situation. An ‘intransigence index’ is subjected to multivariate analysis isolating, inter alia, the two dimensions. As in other countries, greater understanding makes for a more conciliatory attitude. However, in sharp contrast, in Greece particular knowledge encourages more confrontational views, as part of a strategy defending pension privileges. This finding can be used to explain the role pension attitudes and path dependence played in generating the reform impasse which was ultimately responsible for the Greek crisis after 2009.


Pension reform Public opinion Greece Financial education 


  1. Abid Fourati, Y., & O’donoghue, C. (2009). Eliciting individual preferences for pension reform. CESifo Working Paper Series 2770.
  2. Barr, N., & Diamond, P. (2010). Pension reform: a short guide. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Boeri, T., & Tabellini, G. (2012). Does information increase political support for pension reform. Public choice, 150(1), 327–362.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Boeri, T., Börsch-Supan, A., Tabellini, G. (2001). Would you like to shrink the welfare state? A survey of European citizens. Economic Policy, 16(32), 7–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Boeri, T., Börsch-Supan, A., Tabellini, G. (2002). Pension reforms and the opinions of European citizens. American Economic Review, 396–401.Google Scholar
  6. Boeri, T., Börsch-Supan, A., Tabellini, G. (2010). How would you like to reform your pension system? The opinions of German and Italian citizens. In R. Brooks, & A. Razin (Eds.), Social security reform: financial and political issues in international pespective (pp. 333–352). Cambridge: Cambridge UP.Google Scholar
  7. Börsch-Supan, A., & Tinios, P. (2001). The Greek pension system. In R. Bryant, N. Garganas, G. Tavlas (Eds.), Greece’s economic performance and prospects (pp. 435–533). Athens: Bank of Greece.Google Scholar
  8. Burtless, G. (2009). Expanding participation in America’s workplace retirement system. In M. A. Orenstein (Ed.), Pensions, social security and the privatisation of risk (pp 40–71). Columbia UP.Google Scholar
  9. Cameron, A., & Trivedi, P. (2005). Microeconometrics: methods and applications. Cambridge: Cambridge UP.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chlon, A. (2000). Pension reform and public information in poland. Social Protection Discussion Paper 0019, The World Bank.Google Scholar
  11. EPC (2009). The 2009 Ageing report: economic and budgetary projections for the EU-27 Member States (2008–2060). European Economy 2, European Commission.Google Scholar
  12. EPC (2010). Progress and key challenges in the delivery of adequate and sustainable pension in Europe. European Economy. Occasional papers 71, European Commission.Google Scholar
  13. Esping-Andersen, G. (1990). The three worlds of welfare capitalism. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  14. Featherstone, K., & Tinios, P. (2006). Facing up to the Gordian Knot: the political economy of pension reform. In E. Mossialos, & M. Petmezidou (Eds.), Social policy developments in Greece (pp. 174–193). Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  15. Giannitsis, T. (2007). The pension problem (as a policy orphanon) and a way out. Athens: Polis.Google Scholar
  16. IMF. (2010). Greece: staff report on request for stand-by arrangement. IMF Country Report 10/110. Washington DC: International Monetary Fund.Google Scholar
  17. IMF. (2012). Greece: Staff report on request for extended arrangement under the extended fund facility. IMF country report 12/57. Washington DC: International Monetary Fund.Google Scholar
  18. Kennedy, P. (2003). A guide to econometrics. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  19. Lyberaki, A., & Tinios, P. (2012). Labour and pensions in the Greek crisis: the microfoundations of disaster. Südosteuropa Zeitschrift für Politik und Gesellschaft, 60(3), 363–386.Google Scholar
  20. Matsaganis, M. (2010). Sustainable and just pensions in an open society. Athens Review of Books, 4, 42–46.Google Scholar
  21. O’Donnell, O., & Tinios, P. (2003). The politics of pension reform: lessons from public attitudes in Greece. Political Studies, 51(2), 262–281.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. OECD (2011a). Economic surveys: Greece. OECD.Google Scholar
  23. OECD (2011b). International gateway for financial education.
  24. Pierson, P. (2000). Increasing returns, path dependence, and the study of politics. American Political Science Review, 94(2), 251–267.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Schwarz, A., & Demirguc-Kunt, A. (1999). Taking stock of pension reforms around the world. Washington, DC: The World Bank.Google Scholar
  26. Thaler, R., & Sunstein, C. (2008). Nudge: improving decisions about health, wealth, and happiness. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Tinios, P. (2010). Vacillations around a pension reform trajectory: time for a change? Hellenic Observatory Papers on Greece and Southern Europe 34.
  28. Tinios, P. (2012a). Pensions and the Lisbon strategy. In P. Copeland, & D. Papadimitriou (Eds.), The EU’s Lisbon strategy. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  29. Tinios, P. (2012b). The pensions merry-go-round: the end of a cycle? In S. Kalyvas, G. Pagoulatos, H. Tsoukas (Eds.), From stagnation to forced adjustment: reforms in Greece (pp. 1974–2010). London: C. Hurst & Co Publishers Ltd.Google Scholar
  30. Tinios, P., & Poupakis, S. (2010). How does public opinion read the pension problem. In P. Tinios (Ed.), The pension problem: a method to decipher. Athens: Kritiki.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of PiraeusPiraeusGreece
  2. 2.CentERTilburg UniversityTilburgNetherlands

Personalised recommendations