chapter  1
21 Pages

Introduction: Addressing Social Protection and Policy in Greece

WithMaria Petmesidou, Elias Mossialos

For a long time Greece (and the other south European countries, with the exception of Italy) remained outside the scope of major comparative research studies on welfare state arrangements and social policy systems in Europe. This is mainly due to the rudimentary development of universalist welfare structures in the country until the late 1970s – early 1980s, and the distinctive features of its socioeconomic and political structures for much of the postwar period: for example, the agricultural basis of a large part of the labour force and extensive self-employment in rural and urban areas; an enormous hidden economy; political instability; 1 and the predominance of paternalistic/clientelistic forms of social and political integration, closely linked with cultural values upholding familism and nepotism. 2 Moreover, over the last two decades welfare state reform in Europe, under the influence of a multitude of internal and external change factors, has taken centre-stage in comparative studies. Although south European countries progressively have been encompassed in this debate, there are still large gaps in the literature regarding the specific historical pathways of social protection systems and the pressures for change in these countries.