Tuesday, 10 January 2012

The Greek Myths: retirement at 55, lazy workers and a bloated public sector

On BBC TV on Sunday morning, our beloved Prime Minister, David Cameron, did one of these things he does so often to endear himself with the masses - he told a lie. Shock horror!

Yet, to be fair to the blue-blooded, blue-nosed Old Etonian, it may not have been a deliberate lie. It may well just have been another example of his arrogant sloppiness in half-baked factology, first detected with his rubbish about record national debt, etc.

Mr Cameron repeated something which a surprising number of commentators, politicians and the public believe - because, thanks in part to comedians, Conservatives and the corrupt xenophobic media, most British people seem to think that Greek people retire at 55 years of age, and that this has contributed to their economic woes which have so badly rocked the Eurozone and beyond.

In fact, this is a total nonsense.
May Zeus strike them! The neolibs fibs about Hellas

The average retirement age in Greece is over 61. As in the UK, some jobs do allow early retirement at 55, but in fact 86% of workers do not enjoy such a scheme. The normal state pension age in Greece is 65 years of age - the same as at present in the UK, though it is rising in both countries over coming years.

In the UK, because women still retire earlier than men and a significant number of men retire early (many at 55 or even earlier), the average British retirement age is just above 63 now, just a little older than Greece.

So, yet again, the rightwing mythmakers have been at work, stigmatising an entire nation as lazy good-for-nothings. The truth, of course, is that Greece is in trouble because it is tied into the Euro and no longer has any control over its own currency - if the drachma was still in use, they could have devalued it and be well on their way to fiscal recovery. But because they are tied into strict limits set by the European Central Bank, which has appointed the unelected neoliberal technocratic Prime Minister (the inappropriately named Mr Papademos, which translates as Father of the people!), Greece is unable to print its own money - hence it is trapped in the Euro-snare where the Central Bank rather than the elected governments calls the tune.

Greece's problems also stem from some rather dodgy lending to the previous New Democracy (conservative) Government by international financiers just after the millennium. But of course, the neolibs are not going to own up to that one, so they are more than content to pander to racist lies about lazy people and, of course, a supposedly bloated welfare state. In truth, the Greek public sector, accounting for less than 12% of all employees, is the 4th smallest in all the Eurozone countries and Greeks on average work over 160 hours longer each year than Germans and over 100 hours longer than the European average.

As ever, our politicians and media ignore the huge concentration of wealth in the hands of a tiny rich elite in Greece, in line with the trends in most other austerity-focused states, seduced as ever by the half-truths, lies and twisted statistics of our political-economic masters. They are myths we buy into at our own peril - because it feeds the plans of the elite to continue to grasp and command more and more of the wealth of all nations. And, as part of that, force all of our retirement ages up and up until our leaving does can be combined with our wakes. 


  1. The problem is Greek laziness is an engrained myth throughout Europe, not just Britain. Whilst welcoming some folk dancer to my town, the Greek team were late, the Bulgarians quipped that “the Greeks are always on strike” to the amusement of the different nationalities.
    The brutal reality is Greece is in a terrible situation, unemployment is at astronomical levels; unemployment benefits are only available for a year and after that there is practically no assistance from the state. I am sure the Left will blame the Right and the Right will blame the Left, and the people will suffer.

  2. "The truth, of course, is that Greece is in trouble because it is tied into the Euro and no longer has any control over its own currency."
    But European Green Parties love the Euro - “This entails that any scenario leading to the break-up of the Euro-zone, which would be the first step of the political disintegration of Europe is unacceptable to us.”
    Paris Declaration of European Green Parties

  3. Well, European Greens are entitled to think what they like.

    I am happy with the policy of the Green Party of England & Wales, which at the 2010 general election was quite clear:
    "We oppose UK adoption of the European single currency, the euro."