As more loans have been released to the Greek state a combination of recent surveys and reports show the true effects of years of austerity. There has been across the board reductions in conditions and living standards for large parts of the Greek population.
The political and financial worlds have been feeling pretty pleased with themselves recently. The next instalment of loans to the Greek state have been released and the country's credit rating has even improved. The Prime Minister and his government tell us that this means Greece is on the road to recovery. The government and it's international lenders have saved Greece, just in time for Christmas.
In contrast to the official optimism(or delusion) a recent round of reports and surveys shows that the situation is in fact getting worse. Unemployment, corruption, suicide and homeless rates continue to rise as living standards and wages fall.
The latest unemployment rate is around 26% and is expected to rise further still. 26% of the Greek working population comes to over one million people without work. In addition to this it's also possible that up to 500,000 more are unemployed but not included in official statistics. As the economy is expected to contract further in 2013 we should expect this rate to keep rising.
With so many unemployed those who do work may seem to be the luck ones. However the statistics don't look so good for them either. A report by the Labour Institute of GSEE and ADEDY(Greece's two biggest unions) shows that the average wage in Greece is falling, down to 74% of the EU average. Two years ago wages had been 84% of the EU average. With such a high unemployment rate many people feel they have no choice but to accept lower wages. The same report also suggests that one in two Greeks are approaching the poverty level.
Already thousands have fallen below this poverty level. A survey of the homeless population of Athens shows an overall increase in the number of people living on the streets. It's now estimated that Greece has around 20,000 people who don't have anywhere to live. Many of these people have found themselves on the streets due to the crisis. Of the people who took part in the survey seven out of ten said they had become homeless within the last two years. This reality is easily visible in Athens. Outside every metro station in the centre people sleep above the air vents to keep warm as the winter cold bits. Should an MP look out the window of the parliament building they would see people under blankets or in cardboard 'shelters' trying to avoid the cold and sleep in Syntagma Sq.
The homelessness, falling wages, unemployment and the crisis in general continue to have a huge impact on the quality of life for people across Greece. This is especially the case in Athens. A recent Mercer survey on quality of living put Athens as the lowest ranking city in western Europe. Overall Athens ranks as 83 out of 221 cities worldwide. This puts Athens far below most western European capitals and at about the same level or slightly below several eastern European cities.
Corruption on both a large and small scale has long been a part of life in Greece. There are several long running corruption scandals involving MPs and ex-MPs, even the countries monks have been involved in scandals before. The media, politicians and business world are tangled together in a way which blurs the boundaries between each. A recent Reuters article(here) explores some of this web. With each scandal promises are made and investigations called for but little or nothing really done. So it shouldn't come as much of a surprise to learn that corruption has increased during the crisis. In Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index Greece ranks joint 94th out of 176 states with Moldova, Senegal and Columbia. This is down from 2011 when Greece was ranked as joint 80th. Just as with the quality of living survey this puts Greece at the bottom of EU countries.
Adding all this together it's not surprising people aren't celebrating the release of more loans. In fact it has barely registered at all with people. Instead they are concerned with falling wages, the threat of unemployment or just trying to afford heating to keep warm in winter. The reports above only confirm the grim situation which is plain for everyone to see around them. Walking around Athens or in everyday interactions with people a sense of despair is never far away. In contrast the PM's talk of recovery seems to refer to another world.