Challenges to European Welfare Systems

pp 271-300


Dismantling the Feeble Social Protection System of Greece: Consequences of the Crisis and Austerity Measures

  • Sofia AdamAffiliated withLabor Institute/General Confederation of Greek Labor Email author 
  • , Christos PapatheodorouAffiliated withDepartment of Social Administration and Political Science, Democritus University of Thrace

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This chapter examines the Greek social protection system by focusing on the dismantling effects of the economic crisis and the neo-liberal austerity measures. Despite sound empirical findings on pre-existing inadequacies of the Greek social protection system, the austerity measures introduced within the framework of the Memoranda signed with Troika (EU, ECB and IMF) further weakened the capacity of the system to address social risks such as unemployment, inequality and poverty. Against the background of an ageing society, Greece faces a number of challenges in all social policy fields. In the labour market, sky rocketing unemployment levels followed the economic crisis and the deregulation measures imposed while wages were drastically reduced. Pensions, one of the main tenets of the social protection system accounting for more than half of social protection benefits, were drastically reduced affecting the living standards of the elderly. The quasi-universal character of the health system was seriously compromised by drastic cuts leaving public hospitals to manage increased admission rates with reduced budgets and an increasing part of the population uninsured. The other historically underdeveloped social policy areas (i.e. housing, family-child care, long-term care) impose significant burdens on families, the traditional providers of welfare in Southern European countries, in a context of shrinking incomes from work and pensions and imposed flat-rate taxes on house property. These developments taken together resulted in unprecedented levels of poverty and inequality for the Greek population.