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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 highly challenging.  As a result of the deep recession and the austerity measures in Greece, the risk of poverty rate has increased from 27.7% in 2010 to 34.6% in 2012, while the risk of poverty or social exclusion for children under 18 has increased from 28.7% in 2010 to 35.4% in 2012. Additionally, child poverty for those under 18 is on the rise after a slight decline between 2009-10: 28.7% in 2010, 30.4% in 2011 and 35.4% in 2012 (versus an EU-27 average of 28%).  This unfavourable economic situation has increased the demand for direct support to socially vulnerable groups hit strongest by the crisis. Initiatives have been developed to enhance the effectiveness of social expenditure transfers as well as to strengthen the social safety net for the most vulnerable. Family support, especially for the most vulnerable families, is one of the fundamental political priorities.

In accordance with the Commission Recommendation of February 2, 2013 “Investing in children: breaking the cycle of disadvantage”, the development of integrated strategies for children is based on three pillars:

Access to adequate resources

Support parents’ participation in the labour market

Unemployment remains very high and more is needed to tackle the challenge. A number of initiatives are being taken in the sphere of active labour market policies, to support the unemployed. A Youth Action Plan as well as an Employment Action Plan are to be implemented in order to support their participation in the labour market. Given the fiscal context, some prioritization is set for families who need more effective support, such as “short-term public work programmes”, targeted at jobless households, unemployed, long-term unemployed and young people, introduced in August 2013.

Affordable, quality childcare services are provided to parents improving reconciliation of professional and family life. The Reconciliation of family and professional life  [Human Resources Development Operational Programme 2007-2013] aims to increase female employment by providing childcare services in specific care structures. For 2013-2014, in an effort to meet the increasing demand, the subsidized places in childcare structures offered by the programme increased to 71,000 (10,000 more than the previous period 2012-2013) due to a budgetary increase.

Additionally, the Greek Manpower Employment Organization  (OAED) is responsible for the operation of 25 childcare facilities.

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

According to 2011 data, the share of GDP for children and family benefits is 1.8% (relatively low versus an EU-27 average of 2.2%). However, emphasis is given to improving effectiveness and targeting.

Family allowances

Monthly family allowances for employees in the private sector are granted depending on the number of children (paid by the employer or OAED ). 

Family allowances are also provided for public servants (€50 for one child, €70 for two children, €120 for three children, €170 for four children which increases by €70 for every additional child).

In the framework of the recent family policy, a new scheme ‘single child support allowance’  was instituted in January 2013 to replace pre-existing family allowances. This benefit is granted from the first child of the family. (See the Box Below)

The monthly ‘unprotected child allowance’ of €44 is paid to poor children (deprived of parental care for any reason) up to 16 years of age.  Benefits for lone parents also exist.

To support families facing extreme poverty, the government launched a pilot programme for a means-tested minimum guaranteed income (established by law 4093/2012) from January 2014 in two regions of the country and will work to complement the existing policies as a welfare safety net for poor individuals and families. It should be added that 35.4% of children (under 18 years of age) were at risk of poverty or social exclusion in 2012. The majority of poor children live in poor working households, while at the same time the number of poor children living in jobless households has increased.

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. About 19% (8% in 2010) of children under three and 75% (69% % in 2010) of children between three and six are enrolled in formal childcare in 2011 [below the EU-28 averages of 30% 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 (11.4% in 2012, 13.1% in 2011, 13.7 in 2010). Significant measures are promoted including the development of the all-day schools of primary education, the renewal of the school textbooks, the training of the educational staff and the setting-up of Educational Priority Zones (EPZ).  

• 961 all-day schools under the new curriculum operate in our country promoting a diverse and intercultural learning (Sports, Acting, English, Music, Second Foreign Language, Arts, Study and Preparation class as an integrated subject etc.) 

• 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 . 

• Students with disabilities and special educational needs may attend the usual class of general school or a class of general school with parallel support from teachers of Special Education or an Integration Class. 

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

Policy initiatives to reduce the health insurance gap include: reduction in the days of insurance payments required for full medical coverage, temporary extension of health coverage for the unemployed , a “Health Voucher”  (implemented since September 2013), ensuring free access for people have lost eligibility for health insurance and their families to primary healthcare services. 

Children's right to participate

The opinion of the children is taken into consideration in many cases, for example as a pre-condition for their adoption and fostering (when the children are in age appropriate to be asked). 

In addition, the view of the youth of the country is expressed through the successful institution of the Youth Parliament. The ‘Youth Parliament’  is an educational program that activates youth on common affairs and contributes to their initiation in understanding the values of democracy and to the practices of parliamentary life.  

Children’s Rights Department in the Independent Authority of the Greek Ombudsman  (established by Law 3094/2003) has the mission of defending and promoting children's rights through its effective complaint mechanism.

Reforming the Family Allowance Policy 

The recent reform of family allowance policy aims at enhancing the effectiveness and strengthening the social safety net for the most vulnerable families. The new regulatory framework introduces two new means tested benefits:

1. The ‘single child support allowance’, introduced by Law 4093/2012 [OG 222/A/12-11-2012], replaced a number of pre-existing family benefits. It is paid after taking a number of parameters into consideration: the number of the dependent children, the equivalence scale, the equivalent income and the income category of the family.   

The equivalence scale is defined as the weighted sum of the family members [1 for the first parent, 1/3 for the second parent, 1/6 for each dependent child]. The equivalent income is defined as the net, annual, family income divided by the equivalence scale. 

The amount of the ‘single child support allowance’ is €40 per month for each dependent child. Full or part of the allowance is provided to families according to the following equivalent income criteria:

A)           Up to €6,000, receiving the full allowance

B)            From €6,001 to €12,000, receiving 2/3 of the allowance

C)            From €12,001 to €18,000, receiving 1/3 of the allowance

2. The ‘special allowance of €500 for each child per year’, established as an additional benefit for families who have three dependent children or more, based on family income criteria [family income up to forty-five thousand (45,000) euros for families with three children, forty-eight thousand (48,000) euros for families with four children, increased by four thousand (4,000) euros for each additional child [art.40, Law 4141/2013[OG 81Α'/5.4.13].