Greece - Poverty and wealth



Since the 19th century, upward mobility has been more common for Greeks with each generation. How-ever, unlike most European countries, which tend to have rigid class systems, Greece's class system has been more flexible as income has been more widely distributed.

For rich and poor alike, Greek society remains somewhat traditional. The Greek people have strongly held beliefs on the importance of the family and maintaining its societal role, which extends into the economic sector. For example, most Greeks, rich and poor alike, own their own home, and real estate usually stays within families. Non-home owners are considered impoverished, and questions arise about the family's inability to take care of its children and future generations.

The family remains the basic social unit for all classes. The extended family and the obligation of family members to help each other in times of trouble are essential parts of Greek society, which remains unaltered by the expansion of the middle and upper-middle classes following World War II. It is odd for a Greek man or woman to remain single or to break ties with his or her family. Sons and daughters will often live with their parents until they marry. Parents still have influence over the choice of a child's spouse. In rural areas, a groom and his family still consider a potential bride's reputation, family, health, age, and appearance important factors before agreeing to marriage.

Paternal authority is a key part of Greek family life and in Greek society as a whole. Men can often be found smoking, drinking coffees, and discussing politics in the cafés, which are not open to women. During the 1980s, however, significant changes were made in Greek family law, which restricted the dominant role of the father in the family. Dowries for brides were outlawed and although marriage is still viewed as an economic union, civil marriages were permitted and divorce was made easier.

Greeks are noted for their strong sense of community. Despite urbanization, village life remains a strong societal influence. Village square-style meetings on topics relevant to the community are common, even in cities. Many businesses are small, family-owned and operated enterprises. This is evident in some large and more dynamic sectors of the Greek economy such as the shipping industry, which is led by a tight-knit group of Greek

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Greece 8,302 9,645 10,005 10,735 12,069
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Germany N/A N/A N/A N/A 31,141
Italy 11,969 14,621 15,707 18,141 19,574
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.

Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage Share: Greece
Lowest 10% 3.0
Lowest 20% 7.5
Second 20% 12.4
Third 20% 16.9
Fourth 20% 22.8
Highest 20% 40.3
Highest 10% 25.3
Survey year: 1993
Note: This information refers to income shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita income.
SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].

families. Business operations are often run on family connections and favors.

Major strides in health care have occurred since World War II. Many diseases have been eradicated, and Greece has more doctors per person than any other EU member. However, most doctors are located in Athens, meaning many rural dwellers must travel to the city for medical care. In 1976, a government study found that the poor did not have adequate health coverage or access to services, and there was a lack of coordination between government agencies. Reform efforts took several years, but in the 1980s the PASOK government of Andreas Papandreou created a national health-care system which sought to put all medical practices under control of the state. One major goal of the plan was to provide free access to health care regardless of economic means. However, wealthier Greeks often choose to travel abroad for major operations, as they believe health-care services and doctors are more sophisticated elsewhere in Europe.

Greece's health system does provide benefits for workers. Greece has a generous maternity-leave policy for women, and when new mothers return to work they are allowed to leave work 2 hours early so that they can go home to their child. Vacation leave is generous, as it is in many European countries. Greeks take advantage of this, especially during April, the traditional month for vacationing because of the Easter holiday.

Pensions are a complex issue in Greece. Most of the working population, about 80 percent, is covered under the Social Insurance Institute and the Agricultural Insurance Organization. Workers and employers must both contribute to the pension plans for the Social Insurance Institute, which covers professionals, laborers, and craftsmen. The Agricultural Insurance Organization provides pensions for rural workers and is funded entirely by taxes.

Education has always played an important role in Greek society, dating back to its classical roots. The

Household Consumption in PPP Terms
Country All Food Clothing and footwear Fuel and power a Health care b Education b Transport & Communications Other
Greece 32 11 14 5 14 8 16
United States 13 9 9 4 6 8 51
Germany 14 6 7 2 10 7 53
Italy 23 11 12 3 17 8 27
Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.
a Excludes energy used for transport.
b Includes government and private expenditures.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

literacy rate is 93 percent. In the post-World War II period, education has been viewed as the key to upgrading one's position in society and to economic prosperity. However, Greece's education system is rigid and heavily centralized. Teaching is not a highly respected profession and as a result there are not many qualified teachers. State educational institutions are considered inadequate by the populace and, as a result, many children go for tutoring after school at private institutions called phrontistiria . Greek education is free and compulsory for all children to 9 years of age.

The university admissions process for students is very intense and extremely competitive, as graduating from a top university often ensures professional success. About 1 in 4 applicants are admitted. The educational system is plagued by the low social status of educators, lack of supplies and books, frequent strikes, and inadequate labs and technology. Most state universities do not have graduate-level programs, decreasing the incentive for faculty research. Currently about 100,000 students are registered at Greek universities and about 15 percent of the population hold a university degree.

Private universities are not permitted in Greece, which means that the government, and ultimately the taxpayers, must absorb the operating costs of universities and technical schools. A number of new colleges and universities were created throughout the country from the 1960s to the 1980s to meet the growing demand for higher education. However, many of these institutions are not well-equipped with books and laboratory equipment and do not offer enough openings to meet the desire for a university-level education, forcing many Greeks to study abroad. Those students who travel abroad for university tend to enroll in American universities, especially for graduate school. The Greek government evaluates all degrees from international universities to see whether graduates can work in the public sector. One concern with the increased number who study abroad, particularly with EU educational exchanges, is that a "brain drain" will occur, where Greek students will remain abroad rather than return to their home country with their new skills and education.

Following the collapse of military rule in the 1970s, the Greek government issued a number of reforms touching all levels of education such as the expansion of compulsory education and increasing technical education programs. The first PASOK government, which came to office in 1981, continued making education a priority and doubled the education budget during its first 4 years in power. Teaching methods and planning were standardized, routine educational inspections took place, and state education was placed under the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs.

With Greece's entry into the European Union and increased urbanization, there has been an emphasis on raising educational standards to those of its fellow EU countries. In June 1999, Greece was one of 29 states to sign the Bologna Declaration. The declaration sought to standardize EU member universities and shape degree requirements around European Union needs. Once accomplished, all university degrees in the EU would be comparable with one another. The plan called for the creation of a 2-cycle educational system with a 3-year undergraduate program and a 2-year master's degree program. The goal is to reduce unemployment by allowing trained and qualified students to enter the labor market more quickly. The Greek Ministry of Education was skeptical of the program and staged a conference in January of 2000 to debate the Bologna Declaration. University officials voiced strong reservations about the plan, particularly the emphasis on professional rather than liberal arts education. The Ministry of Education opted not to adopt the 3-year undergraduate system, but will make university credit hours more similar to those of EU educational institutions.

User Contributions:

1
Julia Laflin
Report this comment as inappropriate
Nov 10, 2012 @ 10:10 am
Please could you tell me the average age that a Greek woman would be married in the late 19th century? Also the average age of Greek man at marriage?

Many thanks.

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: