The belief that no one works in Greece is a misguided concept shared among Germans, according to Dr Janneke Plantenga, Chair of Economics of the Welfare State at Utrecht University. She says Germans have been misled by a careless press and the lack of statistics.
A poll recently demonstrated Germany’s discontent with Greece’s current pension system, she stated. German tabloids ran the front page headline “Nein” with a story below demanding billions to be cut from “greedy Greeks.” In addition, online users commenting on the issue exaggerated the facts showing that they are ill-informed.
“In real life, the situation is much more complicated,” Dr Plantenga explains. “I’m worried about the popular vote and the people because they do not have access to proper information and they don’t care about it. They see the negative and jump to conclusions.”
According to her research, Greece spends the highest amount of GDP in Europe on pensions. On the other hand, there is hardly any money to tackle unemployment (25.6 per cent as of March 2015) or disability insurance.
Dr Plantenga explained that these statistics are unknown to people in Germany. This absence of information, along with the poor knowledge in the press, infuriates Germans and contributes to the conclusion that Greeks are abusing the money given to them as an EU member.
On the contrary, the Greek population is at a greater disadvantage after pensions were cut by 40 per cent. This year, the average pension totals €833 a month, compared with €1,350 in 2009. The effective age at which Greek workers exit the labour market is 61.9 for men and 60.3 for women, against the OECD average of 64.2 for men and 63.1 for women.
“With more than a quarter of Greek workers jobless, many rely on parents and grandparents for financial support,” said Dr Plantenga. “Society should be more informed. That’s the duty of us both, scientists and journalists. We need to take good care of statistics and inform the future generations.”
Ecem Hepçiçekli and Ariana Perez report.