Department of International and European Economic Studies
Athens University of Economics and Business

Newsletter 6/2013

Poverty and social policy in (a) crisis: the case of Greece
By Manos Matsaganis

In this Newsletter we critically analyse anti-poverty policy in the dramatic conditions of Greece's "New Social Question" (as the steep rise in the number of jobless families with children, with no income support, and often with no access to health care might be termed). We start by citing our most recent estimates of poverty trends in 2013. We proceed by describing the dramatic gaps in coverage left by a patchy and inadequate social safety net. We note that coverage gaps preceded the crisis, but were made worse by the slow and inadequate policy reaction. Things begin to change from 2013. The 2013–2014 spending review provided for massive savings in social expenditure, to the tune of 3.6% of GDP. On the other hand, it also allowed some limited scope for policies to strengthen the social safety net. Specifically, the government introduced a means-tested child benefit and an unemployment benefit for the self-employed, significantly broader eligibility conditions for unemployment assistance, and a minimum income scheme to be piloted in 2014 in two local areas. A careful analysis of these measures suggests that, although welcome, they suffer from design faults and insufficient funding. The NewsLetter concludes by outlining an ambitious but realistic strategy for bolstering the social safety net and upgrading basic social services in order to tackle Greece's "New Social Question".

The full text of the Newsletter is available here (in Greek).