Greece: Unemployment support program fails


Only 1.5 per cent of long term unemployed qualify for benefits.

The program to support the long-term unemployed in Greece can only be described as a failure after it is revealed that only 7,816 claimants have qualified for the benefit when the number of people who have been without work for over a year stands at over half a million.

According to citing figures from the Manpower Employment Organisation (OAED), despite efforts to expand the number of people who receive the benefit as provided for by the updated Memorandum, in reality only 1.5 per cent of the long term unemployed actually receive the support payments of (a rather paltry) €200 per month.

This despite the Labour Ministry having confidently predicted that following changes to the qualification criteria for the benefit, 35,000 of the long-term unemployed would receive the support payments.

Originally the support payments were only available to people who had been out of work for over 12 months and were between 45 and 65 years of age. However, given the extraordinarily high levels of youth unemployment (which exceeds 50 per cent for 15-24 year olds) that left out a large portion of those without any source of income.

The criteria were then expanded in 2014 to include individuals as young as 20 years old, however, extra restrictions were added. Specifically, individuals are only eligible to apply for the benefit if their regular unemployment payments have expired within 60 days (regular unemployment benefits last for 12 months).

Effectively this means the only people who can apply for the support are those who lost their jobs between 12 and 14 months ago. Should the 60 day period lapse before the application is made, the claimant is no longer eligible. When the new rules came into force, tens of thousands of (truly) long term unemployed individuals had already lost their regular unemployment benefits many months previously and as such did not fit the narrow criteria needed to qualify for assistance.

Furthermore, the benefit is only available to those with incomes of less than 12,000 euros. Applicants are required to submit, together with their applications, their tax returns from the previous year – that is when they were still working. This means that even if their income may have dropped to nothing for many months, they would still be ruled out from receiving the benefit based on the money they were making when they still had jobs. Finally, the benefit expires after 12 months.

As a result, in 2014 to date only 6,691 claimants have been granted the benefit, on top of 1,125 in 2013 out of 510,000 long term unemployed citizens. The numbers means that 98.5 per cent of the long term unemployed receive no support.


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