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Greece performs well in only a few measures of well-being, as shown by the fact that it ranks close to the average in a large number of topics in the Better Life Index.
Money, while it cannot buy happiness, is an important means to achieving higher living standards. In Greece, the average household net-adjusted disposable income per capita is 19 095 USD a year, less than the OECD average of 23 938 USD a year. But there is a considerable gap between the richest and poorest – the top 20% of the population earn six times as much as the bottom 20%.
In terms of employment, some 51% of people aged 15 to 64 in Greece have a paid job, below the OECD employment average of 65%. Some 61% of men are in paid work, compared with 42% of women, suggesting that women encounter difficulties in balancing family and career. People in Greece work 2 034 hours a year, more than the OECD average of 1 765 hours. Another key measure, however, is how many people work very long hours. Almost 6% of employees work very long hours, lower than the OECD average of 9%, with 7% of men working very long hours compared with 4% for women.
Having a good education is an important requisite for finding a job. In Greece, 67% of adults aged 25-64 have earned the equivalent of a high-school degree, less than the OECD average of 75%. This is equally true of men and women. In terms of the quality of the education system, the average student scored 466 in reading literacy, maths and science in the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). This score is lower than the OECD average of 497. On average in Greece, girls outperformed boys by 19 points, more than the average OECD gap of 8 points.
In terms of health, life expectancy at birth in Greece is almost 81 years, one year higher than the OECD average of 80 years. Life expectancy for women is almost 83 years, compared with 79 for men. The level of atmospheric PM10 – tiny air pollutant particles small enough to enter and cause damage to the lungs – is 27.3 micrograms per cubic meter, considerably higher than the OECD average of 20.1 micrograms per cubic meter. Greece also performs below the OECD average in terms of water quality, as 66% of people say they are satisfied with the quality of their water, below the OECD average of 84%.
Concerning the public sphere, there is a moderate sense of community and moderate levels of civic participation in Greece, where 68% of people believe that they know someone they could rely on in time of need, lower than the OECD average of 89%. Voter turnout, a measure of public trust in government and of citizens’ participation in the political process, was 62% during recent elections, below the OECD average of 72%. Social and economic status can affect voting rates; voter turnout for the top 20% of the population is an estimated 70% and for the bottom 20% it is an estimated 58%, slightly broader than the OECD average gap of 11 percentage points.
In general, Greeks are less satisfied with their lives than the OECD average, with 52% of people saying they have more positive experiences in an average day (feelings of rest, pride in accomplishment, enjoyment, etc.) than negative ones (pain, worry, sadness, boredom, etc.). This figure is lower than the OECD average of 76%.
OECD in Action
OECD Economic Surveys: Greece 2013
OECD's 2013 Economic Survey of Greece examines recent economic developments, prospects and policies. Special chapters cover restoring growth and fairly sharing the social impact of the crisis.Read this report
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Greece in Detail
Housing – Greece expand
Living in satisfactory housing conditions is one of the most important aspects of people’s lives. Housing is essential to meet basic needs, such as shelter, but it is not just a question of four walls and a roof. Housing should offer a place to sleep and rest where people feel safe and have privacy and personal space; somewhere they can raise a family. All of these elements help make a house a home. And of course there is the question whether people can afford adequate housing.
Housing costs take up a large share of the household budget and represent the largest single expenditure for many individuals and families, by the time you add up elements such as rent, gas, electricity, water, furniture or repairs. In Greece, households on average spend 27% of their gross adjusted disposable income on keeping a roof over their heads, the highest level in the OECD, where the average is 21%.
In addition to housing costs it is also important to examine living conditions, such as the average number of rooms shared per person and whether households have access to basic facilities. In Greece, 88% of people say they are satisfied with their current housing situation, close to the OECD average of 87%. This reflects Greece’s mixed performance in objective housing indicators.
The number of rooms in a dwelling, divided by the number of persons living there, indicates whether residents are living in crowded conditions. Overcrowded housing may have a negative impact on physical and mental health, relations with others and children’s development. In addition, dense living conditions are often a sign of inadequate water and sewage supply. In Greece, the average home contains 1.2 rooms per person, less than the OECD average of 1.6 rooms per person. In terms of basic facilities, 99.5% of people in Greece live in dwellings with private access to an indoor flushing toilet, more than the OECD average of 97.9%.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance
Income – Greece expand
While money may not buy happiness, it is an important means to achieving higher living standards and thus greater well-being. Higher economic wealth may also improve access to quality education, health care and housing.
Household net-adjusted disposable income is the amount of money that a household earns each year after taxes and transfers. It represents the money available to a household for spending on goods or services. In Greece, the average household net-adjusted disposable income per capita is 19 095 USD a year, lower than the OECD average of 23 938 USD.
Household financial wealth is the total value of a household’s financial worth. In Greece, the average household net financial wealth per capita is estimated at 14 004 USD, lower than the OECD average of 42 903 USD. While the ideal measure of household wealth should include non-financial assets (e.g. land and dwellings), such information is currently available for only a small number of OECD countries.
Despite a general increase in living standards across OECD countries over the past fifteen years, not all people have benefited from this to the same extent. In Greece, the average net adjusted disposable income of the top 20% of the population is an estimated 38 487 USD a year, whereas the bottom 20% live on an estimated 6 378 USD a year.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance
Jobs – Greece expand
Having a job brings many important benefits, including: providing a source of income, improving social inclusion, fulfilling one’s own aspirations, building self-esteem and developing skills and competencies. In Greece, about 51% of the working-age population aged 15 to 64 has a paid job. This figure is much lower than the OECD employment average of 65% and one of the lowest figures in the OECD. Employment rates are generally higher for individuals with a higher level of education; in Greece an estimated 68% of individuals with at least a tertiary education have a paid job, compared with an estimated 41% for those without an upper secondary education. This 27 percentage point difference is smaller than the OECD average of 33 percentage points and suggests the job market in Greece is relatively inclusive.
Women are still less likely than men to participate in the labour market. In Greece, 42% of women have jobs. This is much less than the OECD average of 57% and much less than the 61% employment rate of men in Greece. This 19 percentage point gender difference is higher than the OECD average of 16 percentage points and suggests employment opportunities for women in Greece could be improved.
Young Greeks, aged 15-24, also face difficulties, with an unemployment rate of 55.3%, much higher than the OECD average of 16.3% and the highest rate in the OECD.
Unemployed persons are defined as those who are not currently working but are willing to do so and actively searching for work. Long-term unemployment can have a large negative effect on feelings of well-being and self-worth and result in a loss of skills, further reducing employability. In Greece, the percentage of the labour force that has been unemployed for a year or longer is currently at almost 14.4%, about five times the OECD average and the highest rate in the OECD where average unemployment is of 2.7%. There is little difference on average between men and women in the OECD area when it comes to long-term unemployment. In Greece, however, the difference is relatively high with an unemployment rate of 12.1% for men and 17.4% for women.
The wages and other monetary benefits that come with employment are an important aspect of job quality. In Greece, people earn 27 434 US dollars per year on average, less than the OECD average of 41 010 USD. Not everyone earns that amount however. Whereas the top 20% of the population earn an estimated 34 036 USD per year, the bottom 20% live on an estimated 17 450 USD per year.
Another essential factor of employment quality is job security. Workers facing a high risk of job loss are more vulnerable, especially in countries with smaller social safety nets. In Greece, workers face a 12% chance of losing their job, much higher than the OECD average of 5.3%.
Better Policies for Better Lives
Creating jobs for youth
Young people in Greece were particularly affected by the global economic crisis; indeed young people are among the most disadvantaged groups in the Greek labour market with unemployment reaching 55.2% for 15-24 year-olds in 2012, compared with an OECD average of 16.2%.
Improving the performance of youth in the labour market is a pressing challenge in OECD countries. For Greece, the OECD strongly recommended easing the entry into the labour market for young workers by lowering the cost of labour for employers. Greece also introduced one-year apprenticeship contracts for 15-18-year-olds, which offer 70% of the minimum wage. In order to acquire work experience, under a 2011 law young people can be employed under fixed-term contracts of up to 24 months at 20% below the minimum wage.
These programmes should enhance youth job creation.
More ResourcesWell‑being in the workplace: Measuring job quality
Community – Greece expand
Humans are social creatures. The frequency of our contact with others and the quality of our personal relationships are thus crucial determinants of our well-being. Helping others can also make you happier. In Greece, only 43% of people reported having helped a stranger in the last month, lower than the OECD average of 49%.
A strong social network, or community, can provide emotional support during both good and bad times as well as provide access to jobs, services and other material opportunities. In Greece, 68% of people believe that they know someone they could rely on in a time of need, less than the OECD average of 89%. There is no difference between men and women. While gender has no impact on social network support, there is a clear relationship between the availability of social support on the one hand, and people’s education level, on the other. In Greece, around 60% of people who have completed primary education report having someone to count on for help in times of need, compared to 77% for people who attained tertiary education.
A weak social network can result in limited economic opportunities, a lack of contact with others, and eventually, feelings of isolation. Socially isolated individuals face difficulties integrating into society as a contributing member and fulfilling personal aspirations.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance OECD Insights: Human Capital
Education – Greece expand
A well-educated and well-trained population is essential for a country’s social and economic well-being. Education plays a key role in providing individuals with the knowledge, skills and competences needed to participate effectively in society and in the economy. Having a good education greatly improves the likelihood of finding a job and earning enough money. Across OECD countries, 83% of people with university-level degrees have a job, compared with 55% for those with only a secondary school diploma. Lifetime earnings also increase with each level of education.
Following a decline in manual labour over previous decades, employers now favour a more educated labour force. High-school graduation rates therefore provide a good indication of whether a country is preparing its students to meet the minimum requirements of the job market. In Greece, 67% of adults aged 25-64 have earned the equivalent of a high-school degree, lower than the OECD average of 75%. Across the OECD, slightly more men aged 25-64 have the equivalent of a high-school degree compared with women from the same age group. In Greece, however, men and women have the same educational attainment. Among younger people – a better indicator of Greece’s future – 80% of 25-34 year-olds have earned the equivalent of a high-school degree, lower than the OECD average of 82% but showing progress.
Greeks can expect to go through 18.6 years of education between the ages of 5 and 39, more than the OECD average of 17.7 years of education. This high level of education expectancy could influence Greece’s future performance in the educational attainment of its 25-34 year-old population.
But graduation rates, while important, speak little to the quality of education received. The OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) reviews the extent to which students have acquired some of the knowledge and skills that are essential for full participation in modern societies. In 2012, PISA focused on examining students’ reading ability, skills in maths and level in sciences, as research shows that these skills are more reliable predictors of economic and social well-being than the number of years spent in school.
The average student in Greece scored 466 in reading literacy, maths and sciences, lower than the OECD average of 497. On average, girls outperformed boys by 19 points, more than the average OECD gap of 8 points.
The best-performing school systems manage to provide high-quality education to all students. In Greece, the average difference in results, between the students with the highest socio-economic background and the students with the lowest socio-economic background, is 99 points, slightly higher than the OECD average of 96 points. This suggests the school system in Greece does not provide equal access to high-quality education for the better off.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance
Environment – Greece expand
The quality of our local living environment has a direct impact on our health. Having access to green spaces for example, is essential for quality of life. An unspoiled environment is a source of satisfaction, improves mental well-being, allows people to recover from the stress of everyday life and to perform physical activity. In Greece, 25% of people feel they lack access to green spaces or recreational areas, much more than the 12 % average of OECD European countries.
Outdoor air pollution is one important environmental issue that directly affects the quality of peoples’ lives. Despite national and international interventions and decreases in major pollutant emissions, the health impacts of urban air pollution continue to worsen, with air pollution set to become the top environmental cause of premature mortality globally by 2050. Air pollution in urban centres, often caused by transport and the use of small-scale burning of wood or coal, is linked to a range of health problems, from minor eye irritation to upper respiratory symptoms in the short-term and chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma, cardiovascular diseases and lung cancer in the long-term. Children and the elderly may be particularly vulnerable.
PM10 – tiny particulate matter small enough to be inhaled into the deepest part of the lung – is monitored in OECD countries because it can harm human health and reduce life expectancy. In Greece, PM10 levels are 27.3 micrograms per cubic meter, higher than the OECD average of 20.1 micrograms per cubic meter, higher than the annual guideline limit of 20 micrograms per cubic meter set by the World Health Organization. The burning of fossil fuels for electricity generation, as well as in the industrial and residential sectors, remains the major source of PM emissions.
Access to clean water is fundamental to human well-being. Despite significant progress in OECD countries in reducing water pollution, improvements in freshwater quality are not always easy to discern. In Greece, 66% of people say they are satisfied with water quality. This figure is one of the lowest in the OECD, where the average satisfaction level is 84%.
Better Policies for Better Lives
Ai Stratis “green island” project
Greece has introduced a set of measures to better align environmental and energy policy with domestic technological development. Green infrastructure projects include the project to develop Ai Stratis as a “green island” – a good example of the development of mature renewable energy and energy-saving technologies.
Ai Stratis is a small island of approximately 300 inhabitants in the northeast Aegean Sea. The aim is to cover the island’s energy needs in a sustainable way using hydro and geothermal energy, photovoltaic cells, wind energy, and biomass power plants. On a country-wide scale, the Energy Efficiency in Household Building Initiative aims to improve the energy efficiency of existing dwellings and to achieve a 20% reduction in energy consumption.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance OECD Environmental Outlook to 2030
Governance – Greece expand
Trust in government is essential for social cohesion and well-being. In Greece, 14% of people say they trust their national government, much less than the OECD average of 39% and the lowest rate in the OECD. High voter turnout is another measure of public trust in government and of citizens’ participation in the political process. In the most recent elections for which data is available, voter turnout in Greece was 62% of those registered. This figure is lower than the OECD average of 72%.
Even if the right to vote is universal in all OECD countries, not everyone exercises this right. There is little difference in the voting rates of men and women in most OECD countries. This is the case in Greece, where the voter turnout of men and women is similar, at an estimated 62% and 63%. While on average there are few differences between men and women concerning participation in elections, income can have a strong influence on voter turnout. In Greece, voter turnout for the top 20% of the population is an estimated 70%, whereas the participation rate of the bottom 20% is an estimated 57%. This 13 percentage point difference is slightly higher than the OECD average difference of 11 percentage points.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance
Health – Greece expand
Most OECD countries have enjoyed large gains in life expectancy over the past decades, thanks to improvements in living conditions, public health interventions and progress in medical care. Life expectancy at birth in Greece is almost 81 years, one year above the OECD average of 80 years. Life expectancy for women is 83 years, compared with 79 for men, a difference close to the OECD average gap of six years with a life expectancy of 83 years and 77 years for men.
Higher life expectancy is generally associated with higher healthcare spending per person, although many other factors have an impact on life expectancy (such as living standards, lifestyles, education and environmental factors). Total health spending accounts for 9.1% of GDP in Greece, slightly below the 9.4% average in OECD countries. Greece also ranks below the OECD average in terms of total health spending per person, at 2 361 USD in 2011, compared with an OECD average of 3 322 USD. Between 2000 and 2010, total health spending in Greece increased in real terms by 2.4% per year on average, a slower growth rate than the OECD average of 4.0%, but it then fell by 11% in both 2010 and 2011.
Throughout the OECD, tobacco consumption and excessive weight gain remain two important risk factors for many chronic diseases. The proportion of daily smokers among adults has shown a marked decline over the past two decades in most OECD countries, but not in Greece. Greece has the highest rate of daily smokers among adults of all OECD countries, with a rate of 31.9%, compared with an OECD average of 20.9%. In many OECD countries, large proportions of the population are overweight or obese. In Greece, the obesity rate among adults based on self-reported height and weight was 17.3% in 2010, close to the OECD average of 17.2%. Obesity’s growing prevalence foreshadows increases in the occurrence of health problems (such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and asthma), and higher health care costs in the future.
When asked, “How is your health in general?”76% of people in Greece reported to be in good health, higher than the OECD average of 69%. Despite the subjective nature of this question, answers have been found to be a good predictor of people’s future health care use. Gender, age and social status may affect answers to this question. On average in OECD countries, men are more likely to report good health than women, with an average of 72% for men and 67% for women. In Greece, the average is 79% for men and 74% women. Not surprisingly, older people report poorer health, as do those who are unemployed, or who have less education or income. About 87% of adults with a disposable income in the top 20% in Greece rated their health as ‘good’ or ‘very good’, compared to about 70% for those with a disposable income in the bottom 20%.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance
Life Satisfaction – Greece expand
Happiness or subjective well-being can be measured in terms of life satisfaction, the presence of positive experiences and feelings, and the absence of negative experiences and feelings. Such measures, while subjective, are a useful complement to objective data to compare the quality of life across countries.
Life satisfaction measures how people evaluate their life as a whole rather than their current feelings. It captures a reflective assessment of which life circumstances and conditions are important for subjective well-being. When asked to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, Greeks gave it a 4.7 grade, the lowest score in the OECD, where average life satisfaction is 6.6.
There is little difference in life satisfaction levels between men and women across OECD countries. This is true in Greece, where men gave their life a 4.6 grade and women 4.8. Education levels, however, influence subjective well-being. Whereas people who have only completed primary education in Greece have a life satisfaction level of 4.0, this score reaches 5.8 for people with tertiary education.
Happiness, or subjective well-being, is also measured by the presence of positive experiences and feelings, and/or the absence of negative experiences and feelings. In Greece, 52% of people reported having more positive experiences in an average day (feelings of rest, pride in accomplishment, enjoyment, etc.) than negative ones (pain, worry, sadness, boredom, etc.). This figure is much lower than the OECD average of 76% and the lowest in the OECD.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance
Safety – Greece expand
Personal security is a core element for the well-being of individuals, and largely reflects the risks of people being physically assaulted or falling victim to other types of crime. Across the OECD, assault rates have generally declined in the past five years. In Greece, 3.7% of people reported falling victim to assault over the previous 12 months, slightly less than the OECD average of 3.9%. There is little difference between men and women in assault rates, at respectively 3.6% and 3.8%.
The homicide rate (the number of murders per 100,000 inhabitants) is a more reliable measure of a country’s safety level because, unlike other crimes, murders are usually always reported to the police. According to the latest OECD data, Greece’s homicide rate is 1.4, lower than the OECD average of 4.1. In Greece, the homicide rate for men is 2.3 compared with 0.5 for women.
Fear of crime is another important indicator as it can constrain behaviour, restrict freedom and threaten the foundation of communities. Despite a general reduction in assault rates in the past five years, in many OECD countries feelings of security have declined. In Greece, 53% of people feel safe walking alone at night, lower than the OECD average of 69%. While men are at a greater risk of being victims of assaults and violent crimes, women report lower feelings of security than men. This has been explained by a greater fear of sexual attacks, the feeling they must also protect their children and their concern that they may be seen as partially responsible.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance
Work-Life Balance – Greece expand
Finding a suitable balance between work and life is a challenge for all workers, especially working parents. Some couples would like to have (more) children, but do not see how they could afford to stop working. Other parents are happy with the number of children in their family, but would like to work more. This is a challenge to governments because if parents cannot achieve their desired work/life balance, not only is their welfare lowered but so is development in the country.
Another important aspect of work-life balance is the amount of time a person spends at work. Evidence suggests that long work hours may impair personal health, jeopardize safety and increase stress. People in Greece work 2 034 hours a year, one of the highest rates in the OECD and much more than the OECD average of 1 765 hours. Another key measure, however, is how many people work very long hours. The share of employees working more than 50 hours per week is not very large across OECD countries. In Greece, some 6% of employees work very long hours, less than the OECD average of 9%. Overall, men spend more hours in paid work: in Greece 7% of men work very long hours, compared with 4% for women.