A total of 29.5% of the total population (around 3,092,300 people) are simultaneously at risk of poverty or social exclusion, the Hellenic Antipoverty Network said on Monday in its annual report.
According to “Poverty Watch Greece 2022”, which uses Hellenic Statistical Authority and other data including the Network’s own questionnaires, 19.6% of the Greek population is at risk of income poverty, 14.8% experience material deprivation of basic goods, and 13.6% of 18-64-year-olds live in low-employment households.
The Network also concluded that almost 1 in 4 children live in a household at risk of poverty and 1 in 3 at risk of poverty or social exclusion. “These figures show that child poverty in Greece is severe, recurrent,” the report noted, “and worsening, and that we are in a much worse position than the European average, where 1 in 5 children live in poverty.”
Relative poverty rates started to increase dramatically after 2010 (27.7%), starting to drop in 2015 (from 35.7%), and reached 28.9% in 2020. However, it said, “it is striking that in the whole of the past 12 years, about a third of the total population survived in conditions of poverty or exclusion according to official data. This suggests that poverty has been a persistent problem for a large part of the population and that it only started to decline in the years 2017-2019.” In 2020, with the large drop in incomes due to the pandemic, relative poverty started to rise again.
The geographical distribution of the population at risk of poverty recorded the lowest percentage was in Attica (12.9%), Crete (14.9%) and South Aegean (17.5%), while the highest risk of poverty was in Eastern Macedonia and Thrace (29.0%), Western Greece (28.5%), Central Macedonia (25.5%), Western Macedonia (21.5%) and Central Greece with the Peloponnese (24.2%).
The report also found that 1 in 2 households are struggling to pay for their energy needs, when 7 in 10 have less than 1500 euros monthly family income. To manage this, households said, 64% cut down on other needs of their household and 36% some of their basic needs. Four in 10 households heat only one part of their residence and turn the heat off even if the temperature is low (they faced temperatures lower than 18C in their residences last winter). In terms of the energy bills, 1 in 3 of households delays in paying its bills. Citing an analysis of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the report notes that the loss of real income of Greek households due to the energy crisis will be over 10% in 2022.
Among other issues, the report notes that Greece has one of the highest VAT rates in the OECD countries and ranks first with Finland in the Eurozone. However, high indirect taxes lead – in addition to tax evasion – to a reduction in disposable income: While the weaker strata have lower direct taxes due to lower income, they ultimately “lose out” due to high indirect taxes on goods and services.
The report said that in Greece revenues from indirect taxes account for about 56.4% of tax revenues, while direct taxes account for about 35.4%. Consequently, there is no fair distribution of the tax burden and the lower income groups are again the most heavily burdened, it said.