chapter  2
30 Pages

Tracking Social Protection: Origins, Path Peculiarity, Impasses and Prospects

WithMaria Petmesidou

Compared to north-western Europe, Greece lags behind in social welfare provision. In the 1950s and 1960s, when the country experienced fast economic growth and structural changes reflecting late industrialisation, public welfare policies were rudimentary. A considerable increase in social expenditure, in conjunction with significant developments in the institutional set up of social protection (i.e. the establishment of a national health service – NHS) occurred in the first half of the 1980s, mainly as a consequence of changes in the balance of social and political power in the period after the restoration of democracy. However, the ‘delayed’ development of public welfare policies under conditions of global economic restructuring, intensified international competition, significant demographic changes and very low (close to zero) rates of economic growth in the country over the 1980s and much of the 1990s soon led to a fiscal crisis threatening the newly established Greek welfare state. Furthermore, this ‘short glimpse’ of a welfare state was barely framed by universalist and social citizenship values that could contribute to overcoming characteristics such as fragmentation, polarisation and particularism that were entrenched within the system.