Greek Middle Class is On the Ropes, Says OECD Survey

Greek middle-class households are struggling to maintain their economic solvency and the lifestyles to which they have become accustomed, according to an OECD report published on Wednesday.

The report titled “Under Pressure: The Squeezed Middle Class,” which surveys most of the OECD countries, says that the stagnating incomes of the middle class are failing to keep up with the rising costs of housing and education.

“Today, the middle class looks increasingly like a boat in rocky waters,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría, launching the report in New York.

In most countries, it has become more difficult for younger generations to make it into the middle class, which is defined as earning between 75% and 200% of the median national income. While almost 70% of baby boomers were part of middle-income households in their twenties, only 60% of millennials are today, the report says.

According to the OECD, nine out of ten middle-class households in Greece, defined as earning an income of between $7,894 to $21,050, are having serious difficulties in meeting their basic needs. Seven in ten individuals polled say they cannot face unexpected expenses.

Amongst all the countries surveyed, the Greek middle class is in the ninth worst position, surpassing only Turkey, Chile, Mexico, Russia, Brazil, China, South Africa and India.

Median middle class income in Greece, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Slovenia and Spain in 2017 was significantly lower than in 2008, even after taking inflation into account. In the case of Greece, the decrease was almost six percent per year.

A comprehensive action plan is needed now to help the middle class, according to the OECD.

Governments should improve access to high-quality public services and ensure better social protection coverage. Policies should encourage the supply of affordable housing to tackle cost of living issues.

Targeted grants, financial support for loans and tax relief for home buyers would help those in the lower-middle-income bracket. In countries with acute levels of housing-related debt, mortgage relief would help overburdened households get back on track, according to the OECD.