Austerity measures that contravene Conventions by reducing social protection and increasing poverty in Greece
Recalling previous recommendations, the Committee observed that the austerity measures in conjunction with the continuous contractions of the economy, employment and public finances posed a threat to the viability of the Greek national social security system, resulting in the impoverishment of the population, thus undermining the application of all accepted parts of Social Security (Minimum Standards) Convention, No.102 ratified by Greece in 1955. The impact of continuous austerity policies on the ability of small enterprises (the vast majority of Greek employers) to fulfil their tax and social security obligations was found to be worsening, including a doubling of enterprises already owing payments to the Social Security Institute (IKA). The Committee expressed that maintaining the course of austerity would therefore, be in contradiction to Convention No. 102.
The responsibility to take action against the destruction of the national social security system was placed within the capacity of the Government of Greece, as well as the “Troika” that had required the austerity measures (International Monetary Fund, European Commission and the European Central Bank). The Committee recommended the examination of the impact of the reforms and policies of continuous austerity measures with regards to the raise of poverty especially child poverty. Inadequacies in the pension system with regards to impoverishment were examined in depth to provide valuable insights into what constitutes a negation of Convention No. 102. In this regard, it was expressed that the Council of Europe had the “moral and legal grounds” to hold both the State and international lenders accountable for the human cost of policies and programmes, however offered among its recommendations, the ILO’s technical assistance in reaching a solution. The establishment of a social protection floor to establish a minimum guaranteed income is an urgent necessity in the current national situation. To establish this minimum income guarantee, the Government should not only rely on the poverty indicators and ensure that it remain in all cases above the physical subsistence level for different age groups of the population.
The observations of the Committee are particularly interesting with regards to the responsibility placed on the State as well as international financial institutions, as well as the importance given to sustainability of the social security system in the long-term, and the need to adopt a complete policy set that goes beyond simply financial considerations to include social matters and set minimum standards to ensure a life with dignity. It also emphasizes the importance of investigating the social impact of austerity measures before implementing them.