Work and austerity measures have changed life in Greece in the last 6 years
Austerity measures in Greece remain the basic issue on the daily news; and among people’s discussions. Unfortunately, many things have changed negatively; for the largest part of the people who are living and work in Greece; since the beginning of the economic crisis in 2009. I will try to explain from my experience and everyday life; the most significant differences one can spot.
The first impact on work incomes
One of the first measures that were decided by the government in order to lower expenses was of course; cutting down salaries in the public section. As well as pensions. I need to explain at this point that people in Greece until recently were paid 14 salaries per year; 12 for each month; 1 extra salary during Christmas and half a salary at Easter. Not to mention, before summer holidays.
Of course we should not be tricked by the fact that we had two extra salaries per year. Since our salaries were very low compared to other European countries. What happened was for employees eventually to lose those two extra salaries. In addition, their standard salary went down significantly. We are talking about 30% cuts in the income of pensioners; as well as public servants.
Nonetheless, there were no cuts in the private sector. Minimum wages dropped under 600 euros; more options for part time employment were introduced. Unfortunately, these measures not only helped the private sector to survive. Although, the contrary had a negative impact. This was because sales dropped significantly.
Furthermore, retail taxes gradually went up from 18% to 24% in just a few years. As well as taxation for private companies also went up significantly. This led to a drop of sales, business closures as well as high unemployment. That is almost at 30%.
New taxes introduced at work
Apart from raising retail and business taxation; many new taxes, direct or indirect were introduced. I hear about a new tax introduced more or less on a daily basis. An annual tax on property was also introduced. That is a great pain for lower income classes. People without a job and income were now obliged to pay several hundred euros per year; in order not to lose their property. Even their house.
This is pretty tough in a country where suddenly everything became more expensive. SYRIZA was a party of the opposition that said that that was an unjust measure that needed to be stopped but even after SYRIZA was elected government there’s still no change.
The price of fuel leaves cars parked and people in the cold
However, I should also mention that prices of petrol and gas sky rocketed. At one point in 2004 the price of gas almost reached 2 euros per liter. It was a time that the price of petrol was very high at an international level. Combine that with extreme taxation. With that said, you get enormous selling prices for all fuel. Many people stopped taking our cars to work and used public transport to move.
Although it was not convenient for me and many others; we could not do anything else. Since we would end up spending more money to get to work; that we would be paid for our labor. Of course, the fact is that the government was expecting to make some more money from fuels. However, since most people stopped taking their cars; it ended up getting less money that it was getting; before the decision to raise taxes.
Healthcare and services
Severe cuts in the public sector from the government were decided in order to save money. But really have had a negative impact on life standard of people in Greece. The public healthcare system was never great. But actually work well in most situations. It simply collapsed.
Furthermore, even major hospitals have now significant shortage of materials. In many situations many public medical centers, hospitals and installations are not used at all. This is because of maintenance costs; the shortage of doctors; nurses as well as materials. Of course most people do not have the money to seek private medical services; which, in fact, leads them to a dangerous dead end when they face a medical issue.