Greece attempts to restart its welfare state by introducing activation, empowerment and sustainability as key principles in its National Strategy for Social Inclusion. A guest blog post by the Coordinator of the Strategy.
By Gabriel Amitsis*
The development of sound social solidarity trajectories for people at high risk of poverty and exclusion constitutes a key challenge for the rudimentary Greek Welfare State in the context of the sharp financial crisis that affects Greece and its implications during the implementation of the First (May 2010) and the Second Financial Stabilisation Mechanism of the Greek Economy (February 2012). It represents a major policy issue in the debate on the reform of traditional social security schemes, given that it may affect a broad range of interested target groups (pensioners, elderly long term unemployed, welfare claimants), already hit by austerity measures.
The social impact of the crisis has been extremely severe so far in Greece. The employment rate declined from 66.5% in 2008 to 55.3% in 2013, unemployment rate reached 26% (December 2014) and one out of three falls below the EU relative poverty line.
To this end, the Ministry of Labour, Social Insurance and Welfare designed a common framework of principles, priorities and targets aiming at the coordination, monitoring and evaluation of all policies on national, regional and local level to combat poverty and social exclusion. This framework was adopted in December 2014 as the National Strategy for Social Inclusion (NSSI) following a consultation process with key stakeholders and interested groups.Read More
The NSSI introduces activation, empowerment and sustainability principles in the political economy of welfare in Greece, while it identifies as key priority groups:
- Poor elderly people excluded from social insurance pensions;
- Poor uninsured children without parents;
- Poor uninsured adults with no working capacity (disabled / mentally ill);
- Poor long term unemployed excluded from social insurance unemployment benefits;
- Groups at high risk of social exclusion (single-parent families, homeless, third country nationals).
The NSSI includes four policy objectives:
- Combatting extreme poverty;
- Preventing and combatting child poverty;
- Promoting inclusion of vulnerable groups;
- Good governance of inclusion policies.
The development of policies on social housing and tackle homelessness is a key priority within the first pillar “Access to basic goods” of the objective to combat extreme poverty, which includes the following measures:
- Measure 1.1.1 – Access to basic subsistence means
- Measure 1.1.2 – Access to basic health care
- Measure 1.1.3 – Protection in case of crisis
- Measure 1.1.4 – Access to adequate housing
- Measure 1.1.5 – Access to electric power
- Measure 1.1.6 – Access to financial services
- Measure 1.1.7 – Access to Justice
- Measure 1.1.8 – Access to cultural and recreational activities.
Policies on social housing and tackle homelessness will develop in line with other concerted active inclusion projects, that include the introduction for the very first time of a National General Minimum Income Scheme (following the pilot implementation phase started last November) and a new balance between long term unemployment benefits, integration services, services against over-indebtedness and social care services.
* Gabriel Amitsis is Associate Professor of Social Security Law in the Technology Educational Institute of Athens. He was appointed the Coordinator of the Green Paper on the National Social Inclusion Strategy (2013) and the key author of the Strategy (2014), while is the Coordinator of the Greek Strategy framework to tackle homelessness (2015).