GREECE Report prepared for the SOPEMI meeting Paris, 1-3 December 2010
[14/02/2011] [Greece] [Report] [English]
Posted by : Country Coordinator Greece
Authors : Anna Triandafyllidou and Michaela Maroufof
Greece has not been hit particularly hard by the global economic recession that started in 2008. Actually the effects of the recession and the internal acute crisis of public finances became visible only in late 2009. The Greek crisis is less connected to the global financial recession and more to structural problems of the Greek economy (low productivity, low competitiveness), the segmentation of the Greek labour market and a public debt that has skyrocketed during the last years.
The drastic austerity measures adopted by the Greek government in spring 2010, imposed to a large extent to Greece by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund have included horizontal cuts in the salaries of public employees, increases in both direct and indirect taxes, cuts in public expenses including for instance the abolition of certain semi-public bodies and agencies and the reduction of certain types of welfare allowances. In parallel the government has introduced important changes in the national welfare and pension system, increasing the age of retirement and abolishing a large number of exceptions to the general regime, including those aimed at mothers with children who previously could retire much earlier. Further cuts in social services and welfare provisions are actually expected in the coming months as well as structural changes such as the liberalisation of all the closed professions (transport, lawyers, chemists, butchers, notaries, auditors) and of the energy market.
The crisis and the measures taken to reduce the public debt and re-organise the state finances have had both a material and a psychological effect on the Greek market.
Consumption has decreased dramatically hitting hard the retail and overall trade sector as well as leisure services such as tourism and catering. Households have reduced their expenditure for vacation or eating out and have postponed or indeed cancelled any plans for the purchase of more durable goods (e.g. electric appliances, cars, but also of course the purchase of a home). For some the reason has been that they can no longer afford it, for others it was a precautionary measure, to save money and wait to see how the situation will develop in the near future. Banks have become extremely careful in giving loans to customers by fear that they will fail to repay them.
The crisis has led to an increase in unemployment rates, which in October 2010 climbed at 13.5%. However, the crisis has hit hardest the economic sectors where immigrants are largely employed. Construction in particular has been receding already in 2008-2009 as a result of the global recession but currently has reached a stalemate. The estate market is in crisis and constructors are not developing new housing projects. At the same time public works have been stopped or reduced in size, some have been postponed for the future.
These developments have hit hardest migrant men and women who belong to the most vulnerable section of workers in Greece. The impact of the crisis on migrant workers is multi-faceted and largely intertwined with the systemic features of migration in Greece. The legal stay status of migrants and their families in Greece is particularly precarious as for the first 10 years of their stay they have continuously (every 1 or 2 years – when they renew their stay permit) to prove that they are employed, and have been insured.
Source : ELIAMEP