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Greece: Policies and measures to promote employment and support families most in need are part of the government’s agenda to address the social consequences of the crisis

The Greek social context remains challenging.  As a result of the deep recession and the austerity measures, the social indicators have been deteriorating since 2010 in Greece:  the risk of poverty and/or social exclusion rate reached 34.6% in 2012 (31.0% in 2011, 27.7% in 2010) while the rate for children (less than 18 years old) increased from 28.7% in 2010 to 30.4% in 2011 and 35.4% in 2012 (EU-28, 28.1%).

Initiatives have been developed for enhancing the effectiveness of social expenditure transfers as well as strengthening the social safety net for the most vulnerable. Emphasis is given to policies: supporting the participation in the labour market, providing a guaranteed minimum level of living standard, providing access to public healthcare. Family support, especially for the most vulnerable families is a fundamental political priority.

In accordance with the Commission Recommendation of 20.2.2013 “Investing in children: breaking the cycle of disadvantage”, we should mention the following:

Pillar 1 -Access to adequate resources

Support parents’ participation in the labour market

Active labour market programmes

Unemployment remains very high and more is needed to tackle the challenge. A number of active labour market policies to support the unemployed, emphasizing to the youth are being taken. A Youth Action Plan and an Employment Action Plan are implemented in order to support participation in the labour market. Prioritization is set for people/families needing more effective support. The Labour, Social Security and Welfare Ministry is launching new Training Voucher programmes for unemployed combing training and work experience. Additionally, short-term public work programmes are implemented targeted at jobless households, unemployed, long-term unemployed and young people.

Provision of childcare services

Parents’ participation in the labour market is supported by the provision of quality childcare services for families, improving reconciliation of professional and family life. The action Reconciliation of family and professional life [OP Human Resources Development 2007-2013] aims to increase female employment by providing families fulfilling certain socioeconomic criteria with childcare services. For 2013-2014, the subsidized places in childcare structures offered by the programme were increased by 10.000 than the previous period 2012-2013 due to budget’s increase in order to be ensured that all children who meet the family criteria are admitted to nurseries. For 2014-2015, the Ministry of Labour, recognizing the importance of this programme for the Greek family, implements the action under the frontloaded implementation of the new OP "Human Resources Development, Education and Lifelong Learning 2014 - 2020".

Childcare leave

In the public sector, an extra six months paid childcare leave is granted for each additional child in the case of multiple births.

In the private sector, the 2014 National General Collective Labour Agreement:

  • specifies that a father with depended employment relationship has an independent right in the use of childcare leave. 
  • extends the right to father in case the mother is self-employed.
  • clarifies the procedures by which the use of childcare leave, by the father or the mother or both, is decided in the case where both parents are working under dependent employment relationship while previously, fathers made use of this leave only when mothers did not.

Provide for adequate living standards through a combination of benefits (cash and in-kind)

The share of GDP for children and family benefits was 1.8% in 2011 (versus 2.2% in EU-28). A number of social indicators confirm the deterioration in the situation of the children in Greece: the share of children aged 0-17 living in jobless households has increased from 6.3% in 2010 to 9.2% in 2011, 12.9% in 2012. As a result, emphasis is given to targeted and effective policies are of great importance.

Family allowances

Various cash benefits have been converted into two means tested benefits, focused on the most vulnerable and in line with the restrictions imposed by the fiscal consolidation programme.

The ‘single child support allowance’ instituted since 01/01/2013 aims to provide financial support to all families/households whose income is below a predefined level and not only to the large families, as this was the case before. It is 40 € per month for each dependent child. Full or part of the allowance is provided to families according to specific income criteria.

The ‘special allowance of 500€ for each child per year’, is established as an additional benefit for families who have three dependent children or more, based on family income criteria.

Apart from the above, financial support continues to be provided to low income families like those with children living in mountainous and/or disadvantaged areas, those with children up to sixteen years and single-parent families.

Monthly family allowances for employees in the private sector, provided by the Manpower Employment Organisation (OAED), are abolished.

In addition, a positive measure adopted in 2012, is the provision of a maternity benefit to all self-employed women insured by ETAA (the fund for freelance workers and self-employed) for 14 weeks after the child’s birth (Law 4097/12). The benefit, amounts to € 200per month and will be given for four months.
Family allowances are provided since 2011 for public servants (€50 for one child, €70 for two children, €120 for three children, €170 for four children increased by €70 for every additional child).

Financial support

Part of Greece's 2013 primary surplus was allocated to the payment of a ‘social dividend’ to the more vulnerable groups in society. The amount is paid out as a one-off benefit (€500 for a single person). The annual income for beneficiaries must be less than €7.050 while for a family with two children the income should be less than €11.750.

Additionally, full exemption of the new single property tax (ENFIA) is granted to families with three children and large families, based on specific criteria.

In-kind benefits

During the last years, a number of programmes have been launched, mainly under the responsibility of the Ministry of Education and concern the provision of free meals, food, fruits and milk to pupils in school units, mainly in ‘Educational Priority Zones’ (EPZ) described later on.

Moreover, the Ministry of Rural Development and Food has launched the implementation of two programmes “Plan for the promotion of fruit consumption in schools” and “EU school milk programme” financed by the EU.

Pillar 2 - Access to affordable quality services

Early childhood education and care

Emphasis is given in the provision of access to high-quality, affordable early childhood education and care services for children. The data show an improvement in the relevant coverage rates of childcare facilities:  20% (8% in 2010, 19% in 2011) of children under three and 76% (69% in 2010 & 75% in 2011) of children from 3 years to minimum compulsory school age are enrolled in formal childcare in 2012 [below the EU-28 averages of 28% and 83%].

Improve education systems’ impact on equal opportunities

The Greek Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs implements policies and innovative practices with the aim of improving the quality of education, reducing social exclusion and preventing early school leaving [10.1% in 2013, 11.4% in 2012, 13.1% in 2011] in good progress towards the achievement of the Europe 2020 national education target [10% in 2020]. Every child living in Greece, regardless of the residence status, has the right to be enrolled in Greek schools. Significant measures are promoted including:
•   Offer of extra lessons to secondary schools students to support them in their lessons.
• Operation of all-day schools under the new curriculum to promote a diverse and intercultural learning (including Sports, Second Foreign Language, Arts, Preparation class as an integrated subject etc.)
• Educational Priority Zones-EPZ: School units of primary and secondary education that are part of the EPZ, operate in regions with special characteristics (low educational attendance, high percentage of early school leaving, low percentage of access to higher education and low socio-economical conditions) aiming at promoting an inclusive education system. ‘Reception Classes’ and ‘Supportive Tutoring Classes’ for students coming from Sensitive Social Groups  are also operated.

Improve the responsiveness of health systems to address the needs of disadvantaged children

Access to the public health care system is free to all children covered by their parents’ work related public social insurance schemes. In addition, refugees and migrant children without residence permission enjoy full medical and health coverage. Children of uninsured and very low income families (fulfilling certain eligibility criteria) have also free access to health services on a special ‘social welfare booklet’.

Government’s initiatives also include:

  • Temporary extension of health coverage for the long term unemployed until 28/2/15.
  • Reduction in the days of insurance payments required for full medical coverage for people who are affiliated in IKA-ETAM fund.
  • Coverage for sickness benefits in kind (medical and hospital care) for the uninsured and their dependents of Freelance Insurance Agency (OAEE) as well as the affiliated at the Division of Engineering and Public Works Contractors until 28/2/2015.
  • Access to nursing and pharmaceutical care for the ones not eligible for welfare booklets and who are not insured or who have lost their insurance capacity due to their debt in the relevant Funds (and their family members)
  • A Health Voucher (launched in 2013), ensuring free access to primary healthcare services for people who have lost eligibility for health insurance
  • A periodic health check for the students, examined by doctors and providing them with the “Personal Health Card” which contains information on the health status of the children. 

Minimum Guaranteed Income programme A pilot minimum guaranteed income programme will be implemented in 2014 in 13 municipalities of the country - with different socioeconomic characteristics. The programme is targeted to individuals and families living in extreme poverty by providing them income support in combination with social reintegration activities. It will be paid after taking into consideration the family income and the number of family members. The welfare services will also be adding up all the allowances, subsidies and unemployment benefits that a family is entitled to. The pilot programme has only recently come into force [joint ministerial decision No39892/ΓΔ1.2/7.11.14 /OG3018Β/7-11-14] and the programme will be expanded on a nationwide level in 2015.