ATHENS – With Prime Minister Antonis Samaras touting that a recovery is near from a crushing economic crisis, sobering figures showed more than one in three in the country is at risk of poverty.
The numbers from the European Union’s country’s statistics agency, Eurostat, found that 3.9 million Greeks, or 35.7 percent of the population, were barely getting by and were close to the poverty line at the end of last year, compared to 28.1 percent in 2008, before the country’s economic crisis struck.
The growing poverty and record unemployment were created largely by harsh austerity measures adopted by the government on the orders of international lenders who put up 240 billion euros ($306 billion) in two rescue packages to save the economy.
The proportion of Greeks at risk of poverty or social exclusion puts Greece third behind Bulgaria and Romania in European Union rankings, which assess people as being on the poverty threshold when they are living on 60 percent less than the national average disposal income.
Bulgaria topped the chart with nearly half (48 percent) of its citizens found to be living close to the poverty line, followed by Romania with 40 percent of its population deemed to be at risk of poverty.
The lowest rates of poverty and social exclusion were recorded in the Czech Republic (14.6 percent), the Netherlands (15.9 percent), Finland (16 percent) and Sweden (16.4 percent).
Meanwhile the results of a survey carried out by Greece’s National Center for Social Research (EKKE) and presented by the University of Athens on Tuesday found that the financial crisis has led Greeks to cut back on entertainment.
Greeks have cut back on cultural pursuits by an average of 15 percent over the past two years according to the EKKE survey, which said many respondents claimed not to have seen a concert or a play in several years. Many Greek movie theaters have been offering special prices and discounts to bring in customers who’ve been staying home.