The economic crisis and the fiscal adjustment made by the government have had a serious impact on the situation of Greek families. Although the dual-earner family model is quite common in Greece, combining work and family responsibilities remains difficult for Greek parents— particularly those employed in the private sector. Moreover childcare provision and financial support for families are less developed than in other EU Member States. In the current difficult financial climate, one-off birth payments and family benefits have been readjusted to target families that are most in need .
Although the number of dual-earner families has increased substantially over the last decade, many factors (including limited family-friendly working arrangements) keep the female employment rate low. According to 2011 Eurostat data 51.7% of women (15-64 years old) with children under the age of six are in employment (EU average: 58.9%) versus 86.6% of fathers of children under the age of six (EU average: 86.5%), highlighting a marked difference in gender roles. At 45.1% in 2011, the female employment rate is one of the lowest in the EU. Nevertheless, the employment impact of parenthood – that is, the difference in percentage points in employment rates for the age group 20-49 without the presence of any children and with the presence of a child under the age of six – for women (8.2 for 2009) is lower than the average impact in the EU (12.1).
Part-time work is relatively uncommon. Only 10.2% of working women were in part-time employment in 2011, compared to an EU average rate of 32.1 %. For men the respective figures are 4.5% and 9%. Additionally, men and women in Greece work respectively 41.6 and 39.4 hours per week (compared to an EU average of 41.2 and 39.3 hours in 2009) Men also earn considerably more than women. At 22% in 2008 –the latest figure available – the Greek gender pay gap was among the widest in the EU.
Extensive expansion and qualitative upgrading of childcare services is required to improve the reconciliation of work and family life. In 2010, 8% of children under three and 69% of children between three and six were enrolled in formal childcare (below the EU averages of 28% and 84% respectively).
The official initiative on ‘Reconciliation of family and professional life’ (Human Resources Development Operational Programme 2007-2013) aims to increase female employment and to preserve women’s working positions by providing childcare services in specific care structures. For 2012–2013, in an effort to meet the increasing demand, the subsidised places in childcare structures offered by the programme, are increased to 61,000 (18,000 more than the previous period 2011–2012). The aim is to increase the number of beneficiaries by increasing the budget, rationalising expenditure and adjusting the economic criteria for participation in the scheme.
Women have five months of maternity leave. This can be increased by three extra months for the third child and by five extra months for each further child. Mothers or fathers with children under four are entitled to reduce working hours without any salary reduction. Alternatively, parents can take a period of leave of nine months to look after the child. Civil servants can also take up to two years of unpaid leave before the child’s sixth birthday.
17 weeks of maternity leave are granted to female employees. During the period of leave, women who have paid a minimum of 200 days of insurance during the two years preceding the birth and have paid insurance for sickness and maternity are eligible to receive maternity allowance paid by the Social Insurance Institute. The employer pays the employee's salary for up to a month, removing the entire maternity allowance corresponding to the same period of time. The Greek Manpower Organisation (OAED – which forms part of the Greek government) pays a supplementary amount to ensure the mother’s income reaches the same level as salary received before the leave. Uninsured pregnant women or working women that are not eligible to receive financial benefits from the insurance body may request a fixed sum of €440 from the local authority.
After the end of the maternity leave period, women in the private sector have the right to an hour of flexibility at the beginning or end of their working day, for a total period of 30 months. Alternatively, with their employer's agreement they can reduce their working hours by two hours per day for the first 12 months and by one hour per day for the next six months (fathers are entitled to take this leave if the mothers do not). They have also the right to three-and-a-half months of paid parental leave instead of reduced hours of work.
Women are entitled to an additional period of leave (following the period of maternity leave and paid parental leave) lasting up to six months, leave paid by the Greek Manpower Organisation, equivalent to the minimum salary.
Two days of paid paternity leave is granted to fathers after the birth of their child.
Law 4075 /2012 incorporating into the national law EU Directive 2010/18, extends the length of parental leave (without payment but an individual parental right) from three-and-a-half to four months until the child becomes six years of age (instead of three and a half years before).
A relatively small share of GDP is set aside for child and family benefits. In 2009, spending stood at 1.8% of GDP, compared to an EU average of 2.3%.
Monthly family support is granted depending on the number of children. Family support consists of the following: monthly family allowances (paid by the employer or the Greek Manpower Association – OAED), special allowance (€177) for the third child (up to the age of six); benefits to mothers having three children or more (€44 per month for each unmarried child under the age of 23); life-long pensions to mothers with more than three children (above the age of 23 – €102) a tax-free lump sum grant of €2,000 for the birth of the third and every subsequent child.
A new scheme ‘single child support allowance’ is being introduced to replace family allowances (that is special allowance for the third child; benefit to mothers who have three children or more; life-long pension to mothers with more than three children; lump sum grant for the birth of the third and every subsequent child). The single child support allowance will take into account the number of dependent children, the equivalence scale, the equivalent income and the income category of the family. It is currently a draft law.
Family allowances are also provided 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).
A key challenge for Greece is to increase the effectiveness of public spending on social programmes. The government’s ‘Functional Review of social programmes’ aims to improve the effectiveness of spending and strengthening the social safety net for the most vulnerable. Benefits policy has changed in terms of targeting: some benefits are now means-tested, for example, from the beginning of this year, all family allowances for families with three children and a family income of more than €45,000 have been abolished; others have been reduced, for example family benefits for public sector employees; while for some others the prerequisites for eligibility have become stricter, for example the old age solidarity benefit, or EKAS.
Greece also faces the challenge of child poverty. According to Eurostat, in 2010, 23% of Greek children were at risk of poverty (one of the highest child poverty rates in the EU). Single parent families, large rural families and the families of economic migrants and unskilled workers are the most affected. It should be added that the majority of poor children live in working poor households, while at the same time the number of poor children living in jobless households is increasing.
In order to tackle high child poverty, in 2011 the government launched the pilot programme ‘Provision of integrated local support and care services for poor families with children’ in the municipalities of Ano Liosia, Keratsini, Gastouni, and Xanthi. The scheme provides poor families with childcare support services, advice and guidance for children and parents.
The fertility rate in Greece (1.5 children per woman in 2010). In an attempt to counteract the declining trend in birth rates, a birth grant had been introduced for mothers in paid employment, which for the second semester of the year 2011 was €1,007 (paid by the Social Insurance Institute). Since 2012, this grant has been replaced with a lump sum birth grant of €900 for the birth of one child, €1,200 for twins and €1,600 for triplets, provided that delivery occurs without any cost for the Insurance Body (the grant is paid for expenses incurred for medical services in a private hospital).
The information in the country profile was last updated in November 2012.
The ‘Help at Home’ programme for older people (created in 1992) aims to encourage the elderly to be actively involved in their own healthcare, within their family and social environment. It provides the elderly with counselling and psychological support, nursing care, family assistance and companionship, the programme supports family carers (mainly women) to take up or maintain paid employment.