The working poor in Greece, where work offers less protection from poverty than in the rest of EU

Greece has the highest proportion of working poor in the EU27 a recent article in the German Der Spiegel claims. The article describes a situation that shows no improvement on the findings of an much earlier study on the working poor by the  European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. 

In-work poverty is mainly associated with low wages and inability to find a full-time job. It is also associated with the lack of an effective, well-planned social policy and a graduated income taxation.

The working poor are those who are employed and whose disposable income puts them at risk of poverty.

‘Employed’ is defined here as being in work for over half of the year and ‘risk of poverty’ is defined as having an income below 60% of the national median.

In the Greek reality, this translates to  over half a million workers or 1/3 of the employees in the private sector, who get  less than 376 euros a month, many of whom have a university education but are unable to find work in their field.

The article also compares the cost of living in Berlin and Athens. “For example, in Berlin the prices for daily consumption are only 14.5% higher than in Athens, despite the fact that in the German capital the purchasing power is 117% higher”.

The article describes a situation where whole generation of young Greeks will accept anything the employer asks thinking that if they don’t do it, someone else will. Because “a poorly paying job is always preferable to unemployment.

The writer attributes the low wages to the relaxation of the labour legislation imposed by Greece’s creditors, as the result of the economic crisis.


Their numbers are  likely to increase as companies introduce various measures to try to cut wage costs while keeping people in employment by reducing their working hours, giving them extended leave or simply cutting wages.