By Spiros Sideris – Athens
The poverty situation has worsened in Greece in 2013, according to the results of the quarterly report of the European Committee for the Social and Employment situation in the EU that was released in Brussels today. Meanwhile, the tax and benefits systemic reforms in Greece and Portugal during the period 2012-2013 led to a reduction of income for the majority of households.
In particular, according to the report, Greece shows the greatest increase regarding the percentage of the population at risk of poverty for 2011-2013. In 2013, 23.7% of the population was living under poverty limit, an increase of 1.8% compared to 2011. Romania follows with an 1.1% increase during the same period with 21.2% of the population living under the poverty line in 2013, Latvia with 21.4% poverty and a 0.9% increase and Spain with 20.9% poverty in 2013 with a 0.7% increase from 2011.
Moreover, during the period 2008-2013 the household disposable income dropped by 14.8% in Greece, recording the second highest drop in the EU after Ireland (-16 %), while large reductions were also observed in Portugal with -7.5 % and Spain with -5.2 %. The main reasons for these reductions, as the Commission explains, were the large increases in taxes, the reductions in pensions and the limited impact of social protection spending.
The Commission’s report also shows that in 2013 unit labor cost registered the largest drop in Cyprus (-5.4%) and Greece (-4.7%), while the Greeks appear as Europeans, who work the longest hours per week, with 43.7 hours. The Poles follow with 42.5 hours, the Cypriots with 42.4, the Portuguese with 42.2 and the Austrians with 42.15 hours. The Finns are work the less with 39.7 hours per week, followed by the Hungarians with 39.8 hours and the French with 40 hours.
In January 2014 unemployment affected 3.1 million young people aged 15-24 in the EU, but with large differences observed between the Member States. In countries that are not particularly affected by the deterioration of labor, like Austria, Germany and the Netherlands, the rates of youth unemployment were around 10%, while in Greece and Spain, where the situation is the worse in the EU, youth unemployment rates have tripled over the period 2008-2013, the Commission reports.
Commenting on the report, the Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs, Laszlo Andor, stressed, inter alia, that “inequalities have increased and there is the risk that the current fragile recovery will not improve the situation of many groups of people with lower incomes”.
“The EU is still far from having secured a recovery without exclusions that creates many jobs. The Member States and the EU should intensify their efforts to ensure that we will not leave anyone behind in our attempt to get out the crisis”, noted the EU Commissioner and added that “in particular, we should focus our efforts on investing in human capital, in accordance with the guidelines contained in the package for social investment and the creation of the Council in regard to guarantees for youth”.