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Austerity Pushes 20% of Greeks Into Poverty

More than 2.34 million people in Greece are living below the poverty line, due largely to a barrage of pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions that have hit workers, pensioners and the poor while the rich, politicians, and tax evaders have largely escaped sacrifice.
Those daunting numbers were published in a report by the Hellenic Statistical Agency (ELSTAT) and reflected how dire the situation was in 2010 when austerity measures demanded by international lenders were just beginning. Since then, it’s become worse, with nearly two million people out of work, 68,000 businesses shuttered and the economy shrinking by 7 percent.
And with the uneasy coalition government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras putting before Parliament a $17.45 billion spending cut and tax hike plan for a vote on Nov. 7 – as Greeks are staging a 48-hour strike in opposition – all the signs indicate that more Greeks will be unable to make ends meet.
Already, more than 20 percent of them have walked away from bank loans and credit card payments, unable to keep up with their wages slashed 35 percent and more, and lines at soup kitchens run by the Greek Orthodox Church and NGO’s are growing.
ELSTAT set the poverty line at 6,591 euros per person ($8,459) per year for 2010, while the average per capita income that year stood at 12,637 euros ($16,219.) A total of 901,190 households were found to be living below the poverty line.
On average, households spent 1,956 euros ($2,510) per month, down from the 2,065 ($2,615) euros per month that they spent in 2009. Most cuts were in apparel purchases (13.5 percent year-on-year) and communications (12.5 percent). Spending on tobacco and alcohol remained unchanged. The report highlights the fact that Greece is among the European countries with the greatest financial inequalities, as the richest 20 percent of the population had an annual income that was six times that of the poorest 20 percent.
ELSTAT found that more than half of all Greeks have trouble paying their bills, as almost two thirds – 63 percent – of Greeks make ends meet “with difficulty” or “with great difficulty.” Greek income have fallen sharply, as much as 35 percent in some cases, while some private sector workers report their salaries have been cut in half.
The 2011 survey said almost 20 percent of respondents couldn’t keep their home adequately warm, about 33 percent said they are late in paying rent, mortgages and credit card payments, and more than 50 percent said they can’t afford a one-week vacation. The ratio of Greek households at risk of poverty increased to 21.4 percent last year, from 20.1 percent in 2010, the fourth worst in Europe behind Bulgaria, Romania and Spain.

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