Profile of working poor and risk factors
A recent study carried out by the Institute of Social Policy of the National Centre for Social Research examines the relationship between employment and poverty in Greece. The objectives of the study include identifying the groups of workers at greater risk of poverty, creating a profile for these groups, and identifying the factors that appear to increase the risk of poverty among employees.
A recent study was conducted by the Social Policy Institute of the National Centre for Social Research (Εθνικό Κέντρο Κοινωνικών Ερευνών, EKKE) and the findings were subsequently published in The social portrait of Greece 2006. The study is based on data from the EU Survey of Household Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC) carried out in the spring of 2003 by the General Secretariat of the National Statistical Service of Greece (Εθνική Στατιστική Υπηρεσία της Ελλάδος, ESYE), with the participation of EKKE.
Definition of working poor
The analysis defines the ‘working poor’ as employed people over the age of 16 years who state that they have worked longer than seven months and whose equivalent available family income is less than 60% of the national average equivalent available income. Their occupational status is defined as their main activity for more than half of the number of months of the total period over which income was measured.
Effect of employment status on risk of poverty
Table 1 reveals that more poor people, at 31.4%, are found in the group of unemployed individuals than in any other category of occupational status. The data also highlight that there are higher numbers of poor people among other population groups outside the labour market than among employees.
On the other hand, almost one third of individuals under the poverty line are employed. The data also show that one worker in seven is poor.
|Occupational status||No. of individuals aged over 16 years||No. of individuals under the poverty line||Individuals under the poverty line (%)||Poor individuals within the group (%)|
|Other non-active categories||2,256,947||563,572||32.80||24.97|
Source: The social portrait of Greece 2006
Effects of occupational and demographic factors
The study details the effect on poverty risk of a range of occupational and demographic characteristics; Table 2 below highlights a number of the conclusions drawn in the analysis.
- Working men are at a 1.25 times greater risk of becoming poor than working women. Women’s labour market participation is low in relation to men’s; however, the proportion of highly educated women who enter employment is greater than that of men (see also Ketsetzopoulou and Κostaki, 2000).
- The risk of poverty for people aged 55 years and older is 1.62 times greater than for those aged 25–54 years, and 1.28 times greater than for young people aged 16–24 years. A large number of older workers are self-employed in the agricultural sector and/or have a low level of education.
- Employed people with low levels of education face an over two times greater risk of poverty than employed people in general. Although the protection afforded by a high level of education appears to decrease over time (see also Tinios and Zografakis, 2001), the effect of education remains decisive for avoiding the risk of poverty.
- Self-employed people show a risk of poverty 3.7 times higher than that of employees and 1.6 times higher than that of workers as a whole. The greatest risk of poverty according to employment status is faced by assistants in family businesses. However, the data on the employment of self-employed people must be treated with caution due to the incidence of tax evasion.
- People employed on a part-time basis are at a 2.4 times greater risk of poverty than those employed in full-time jobs. The poverty rate in this group also appears to be greater than that of retired and non-active individuals.
|Occupational and demographic characteristics||No. of individuals||Individuals in the category (%)||Poor individuals within the group (%)|
|Aged 16–24 years||316,670||8.05||16.30|
|Aged 25–54 years||3,109,678||79.03||12.90|
|Aged 55 years||508,693||12.93||20.85|
|Level of education|
|Type of employment|
|Assistants in family businesses||297,700||7.87||41.38|
|Length of working week|
|≤ 30 hours a week||3,410,515||90.20||13.86|
|> 30 hours a week||370,399||9.80||17.49|
|Type of employment contract|
|Fixed-term or works contract or temporarily employed||503,132||22.33||14.17|
Source: The social portrait of Greece 2006
Apart from pensions, Greece has the lowest level of social benefits – such as family and housing benefits, disability benefits and other welfare benefits – compared with the remainder of the 15 countries (EU15) that were EU Member States before EU enlargement in 2004. Many poor people, including the working poor, are not eligible for welfare benefits because they do not belong to any of the categories which qualify for subsidies (Matsaganis et al, 2004).
With regard to active employment policies, total spending on the labour market in Greece amounts to only 0.9% of gross domestic product (GDP), which represents the lowest rate in the EU15. In fact, spending on active labour market policies amounts to just 0.25% of GDP, which also constitutes the lowest rate in the EU. Therefore, it is imperative that targeted policies should be designed to support the working poor. On the one hand, measures must be taken in relation to social welfare and, on the other hand, the statutory framework regulating labour market operations must be strengthened.
Ketsetzopoulou, M., ‘Working poor in Greece’, in Social portrait of Greece 2006, Athens, National Centre for Social Research, Institute of Social Policy, 2007.
Ketsetzopoulou, Μ, and Κostaki, Α., ‘Investigation of the influence of demographic characteristics of people of working age on their participation in employment’, in Review of Decentralisation, Local Government and Regional Development, Vol. 19, 2000, pp. 35–44.
Matsaganis, M., Ferrera, M., Capucha, L. and Moreno, L., ‘Policies against poverty in Southern Europe, in Petmesidou, M. and Papatheodorou, C. (eds.), Poverty and social exclusion, Athens, Exantas, 2004.
Tinios, P. and Zografakis, S., ‘The financial situation of the elderly population in Greece’, in Kikilias, E. et al (eds.), Demographic ageing, labour market and social protection: Trends, challenges and policies, Athens, National Labour Institute, 2001, pp. 81–104.
Sofia Lampousaki, INE-GSEE/ADEDY