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More Than 40% of Greeks Can’t Afford to Take Vacation; Among Highest in EU

Greeks Vacation
More than 40% of Greek workers can’t afford a vacation. Credit: Greek Reporter

This summer has brought throngs of tourists to Greece but a new report found that more than 43 percent of all employed Greek citizens cannot afford to go on vacation.

They totaled more than 1.6 million of the 38 million workers across European Union member states who could not afford a one-week vacation, according to a survey by the European Trade Union Institute.

Greece’s 43.4 percent of workers who can’t afford a vacation—up from 41.3 in 2019—gives it one of the highest percentages among European Union countries in that category along with Romania and Lithuania. The General Counsel of Workers of Greece published the latest results.

About 840,000 workers in Bulgaria couldn’t afford a holiday getaway, along with 613,049 in Croatia, 373,660 in Lithuania, 191,654 in Denmark, 178,163 in Latvia and 176,986 in Finland.

Holidays should not be a luxury,” ETU’s Deputy Secretary General Esther Lynch said. “Holidays are an important part of ensuring the health and well-being of workers but seem a long way off for many struggling just to put food on the table and pay the rent amid the cost of living crisis.”

Rising Costs A Factor for Greek Workers Unable to Take Vacation

The rising cost of living and low wages have added to the pressure on workers, according to the GSEE, Greece’s biggest trade union.

Much like in many parts of the world, the inflation rate in Greece has soared to its highest rate in nearly thirty years, which has also contributed to spikes in travel prices.

Overall in the survey, the proportion of the total population that could not afford a one-week holiday ticked up in more than half of EU member states since 2019. And the share of employed people who could afford a week-long vacation rose in eleven countries.

In total, the number of workers who could not afford a vacation rose from 27.3 million in 2019 to 38 million in 2020, which is when the most recent survey was conducted.

The three countries with the most workers who have to stay home are: Italy (8 million), Spain (4.6 million), and France (4.1 million).

This so-called “holiday poverty” is likely to worsen as a result of the jump in cost of living and rising inflation, according to the ETU.

“The E.U. and national governments have a responsibility to protect and strengthen collective bargaining as the best means of ensuring that workers receive their fair share and can afford to enjoy life rather than just survive,” Lynch said. “Without a fair pay rise, employers and politicians will see that when they return from their own summer holidays they will face an autumn of rage followed by a winter of discontent.”

Within Greece, prices for hotel rooms, rental cars and other essential aspects of travel have soared this summer, particularly on the Greek islands. They will likely reach their peak in August, when most Greeks take their summer vacation, so the islands are filled with tourists from Greece and abroad.

Celebrities Enjoying Greek Islands

Ahead of this summer, Greece eliminated most COVID-19 restrictions to lure more tourists. And it worked. Tourism—which makes up 20 percent of the Greek GDP—will, this summer, likely bring in about 80 percent of the 18 billion euros that were made in 2019 before the pandemic.

In recent weeks, celebrities with cash to burn have flocked to the Greek islands. Billionaire Elon Musk is vacationing in Mykonos, and The Wolf of Wall Street Jordan Belfort and his wife partied there over a weekend this month, celebrating his sixtieth birthday. NBA legend Magic Johnson and his family also sailed Greece’s Aegean Sea aboard his $150 million luxury yacht and tweeted much of his journey along the way.

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