Greek single mum living on just £7 a week

Poverty in Greece: thousands have nothing left to lose from euro exit

Updated: 
Maria on Panorama

The Greek crisis has left a woman and her two children living on just 10 euros a week. The woman, who is referred to only as Maria, appeared on the BBC's Panorama programme to highlight the shocking poverty that the crisis has brought to some Greek families. It highlights that many have nothing left to lose from leaving the euro.

The single mum of two from the port of Piraeus cannot afford to pay her rent. Fortunately her landlady is letting her stay rent-free for the moment, but her electricity was cut off after she was unable to pay the bill, so she runs her fridge by plugging it in at a neighbour's house.

Maria is still working, but her job as a cleaner pays just 40 euros a month. She told the programme: "We can't go on like this. We need to find a solution. I'm looking for a job but no-one hires me either because I am too old, I am divorced or because I have children, so one way or another I am doomed." Her situation is far from unusual, because at this stage a quarter of the country's population is officially unemployed.

Austerity

Maria previously received benefits, but because of the austerity cuts brought in by the Greek government, she no longer gets any help. She and her children are only surviving because they receive food and other household basics from a charity.

She is one of thousands of Greeks hit by the country's economic meltdown. When the wheels came off in 2009, the country was forced to arrange a bailout deal with the rest of Europe. The price of that deal, in 2010, was extreme austerity, which removed the flimsy safety net that existed, and left the poor and the vulnerable facing a crisis.

Unemployment benefit all-but disappeared, pensions were slashed, and the health budget was cut by 40%. Over the past five years, those who have been hit hardest by the cuts have been battling against the odds, and almost a third of Greeks are thought to be living on or below the poverty line. Some 3.1 million cannot afford health insurance, and 17% are unable to meet their daily food needs.

In this context, it's no surprise that the Greeks elected an anti-austerity party, and voted against more austerity in return for another bailout. The media may have been filled with dire warnings of what it would mean for people in Greece if they failed to pay their debts, but for those struggling to get by, those threats must have fallen on deaf ears. After all how much worse could things really get?

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