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New guaranteed minimum income is below poverty line

Measure to be applied in 13 of the country's 325 municipalities

Although parliament's own budget watchdog agency sets the poverty line for a married couple with two underage children at €908 a month, the government's trial guaranteed minimum income measure foresees a monthly benefit of only €400 for this category

Nearly a quarter of Greeks, or 23.1% of the population, were at risk of poverty in 2013, the highest percentage in the European Union Nearly a quarter of Greeks, or 23.1% of the population, were at risk of poverty in 2013, the highest percentage in the European Union The government has announced a new guaranteed minimum income measure that will still leave the people entitled to it earning less than the minimum level of income deemed adequate by parliament's budget watchdog.

The new guaranteed minimum income, which was formally launched on Tuesday, will see beneficiaries receive monthly payments ranging from €200 a month for a single person on no income to €400 for a married couple with two underage children with no other earnings.

Those payments will still leave recipients below the poverty line, which the Parliamentary Budget Office (GPK), in a report published last month, set at €432 a month for one person or €908 for a family of four.

The scheme will apply to individuals or families who have no other source of income. People with small incomes will be able to apply but they will receive a smaller benefit.

Greece was the only EU country without a guaranteed minimum income and the new programme is being piloted in 13 of the country's 325 municipalities. The selected municipalities – Drama, Edessa, Grevena, Halkida, Ioannina, Kallithea (in Athens), Karditsa, Lefkada,  Malevizi (Crete), Mesolongi, Tripoli, Samos and Syros – account for about 7% of the country's population.

On Monday, the country's statistics agency Elstat announced that nearly one quarter of Greeks, or 23.1% of the population, was at risk of poverty in 2013, the highest such percentage in the European Union. When the risk of poverty and social exclusion were considered together, the figure stood at 35.7%.

Speaking at a the launch of the measure, Labour Minister Yiannis Vroutsis said the crisis has revealed the distortions, gaps and contradictions of the country's social protection system. The system was inefficient and incomplete both socially and economically and the minimum guaranteed income was an answer to all these issues, he added.

"Today is a special moment because the greatest social reform in the country that is changing what we have known about the social state is presented. It is an innovative measure that is the pillar of the social solidarity of tomorrow," Vroutsis underlined.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, who also attended the launch, stressed that "today we are launching in Greece a tool of social policy for the protection of the weakest, for the fight against poverty and the reintegration of those who risk being left out".
This was made possible, he said, "with the country's surpluses and the fact that Greece can cover its social needs on its own".

"Social justice promotes development and consolidates democracy in our country," the prime minister added.

In his address, Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos stressed the measure will soon produce results.

"But this is the minimum, it is not enough. Our policies for the 'help at home' programme, for the homeless and the unemployed lay the foundations so that the guaranteed minimum income brings results."

The maximum benefits under the minimum guaranteed income scheme:

• Single person without children: €200 a month or €2,400 a year.
• Couple without children €300 a month or €3,600 a year
• Couple with one child under 18: €350 a month, or €4,200 a year
• Couple with 2 children under 18: €400 a month or €4,800 a year
• Couple with one adult child: €400 a month or €4,800 a year
• Couple with one minor and one adult child: €450 a month or €5,400 a year
• Couple with 2 adult children: €500 a month or €6,000 a year
• Single parent with one minor or adult child: €300 a month or €3,600 a year
• Single parent with two minor children: €350 a month or €4,200 a year

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Antonis Samaras
Incomes
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Yiannis Vroutsis