Globalization and Welfare series
Edited by Klaus Armingeon and Michelle Beyeler
Chapter 12: OECD views on Greek welfare: not European enough
Blanca Ananiadis INTRODUCTION: THE GREEK WELFARE STATE In Greece, the twenty-first century opened with a broad wave of welfare reform proposals. This process, begun in the mid-1990s, first aimed at rectifying existing economic and financial ‘structural imbalances’ (a concept used in all OECD surveys). In fact, most social reforms were either constituent elements of (labour market, social security), or resource-dependent upon (education, health), the financial restructuring that paved the way to successful entry into the Eurozone. Since the mid-1990s, the social agenda has become more decisively reformist. Negotiated and still negotiable, politically costly and plagued by the uncertainty of its outcomes, reform plans have helped to further unveil a deep layer of ‘structural imbalances’ in the Greek socio-economic configuration. Until recently, Greece represented a near ideal-type ‘Southern-syndrome’ welfare state, referring to the categorisation proposed by Ferrera (1996) (an addition to Esping-Andersen’s well-known ‘three-worlds’ typology). Frequently cited in the welfare literature, that syndrome refers to a particular mixture of nominal universalism in health care and dualism (i.e. sharp disparities in benefits resulting in ‘hyper-protected’ and unprotected sectors) and fragmentation in occupationally-based income maintenance and pension systems. In the Greek case, this dualism was exacerbated by a culture of politically endowed privileges associated to clientelistic practices, centralised welfare provision and consistently low – when compared to both European and OECD standards – levels of social expenditure. Pension-heavy social protection (around 50 per cent of the social budget since the early 1980s), restricted and meagre unemployment benefits, and the narrow scope of social services provided...
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