Greece’s Poverty Rate Clears 21 Percent, With More Austerity Coming

Eurozone unemployment, in what has become a monthly ritual, hit a record high in September, with 18.4 million Europeans out of work. According to the European Commission, “roughly 40 million Europeans are suffering ‘severe material deprivation’”, while “116 million EU citizens are judged ‘at risk of poverty.’” One of the hardest hit countries has been Greece, where austerity has pushed the poverty rate above 21 percent:

Greek incomes have fallen sharply since 2010, mainly because of repeated rounds of spending cuts and tax hikes to meet the terms of a bailout from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund and avoid national bankruptcy. […]

The 2011 survey said almost a fifth of respondents couldn’t keep their home adequately warm.

About a third of all respondents are late in paying rent, mortgages and credit card payments. Just over half said they couldn’t afford a one-week holiday away from home.

The ratio of Greek households at risk of poverty increased to 21.4 percent last year, from 20.1 percent in 2010, ELSTAT said on Friday.

Greek workers today launched a three-day strike against austerity. Greece’s health care system has been so pounded by austerity that patients have to bring their own supplies (such as syringes) to the doctor’s office.

Despite these numbers and stories, Greece and other European nations are plunging ahead with their austerity plans. Just last week, a study showed that Europe’s austerity packages have been counterproductive; growth would have been higher and debt-to-GDP would have been lower if the EU countries had not implemented them.

The U.S. has managed to claw its way past the financial crisis faster than Europe, in part, because it did not engage in the same level of austerity, which dampens already weak growth. But that could be just a temporary reprieve, as the so-called “fiscal cliff” that it scheduled for the end of the year would entail more fiscal contraction than that experienced by austerity-bound European nations.