Inequalities and poverty

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Now that the battle over pension reform is over, it is time to think what has been won and what has been lost on an individual as well as a collective level.

First of all, we should repeat the obvious: There is no solution to Greece's social security problem. Not because of workers' reactions or because of government reluctance but rather because living conditions are constantly changing.

We live longer than previous generations (and well done for that), we live better (and, once again, congratulations to us) and we spend more on medicine. The worker-pensioner ratio will not change in the foreseeable future whether its 13 offices dealing with workers' finances or 113.

The system has little to gain (if anything) whether there is such a thing as a social security czar overseeing the funds or not.

Some hope that slashing the number of funds down to 13 will trim bureaucracy, but this is hard to tell from the 120,000-word bill. Attempts to restructure a complex system usually end up with an even more complex system - even if the system were successfully restructured, bureaucracy and pressure groups would make sure to compromise it.

Optimists estimate that the changes - which only affect those who entered the labor market during the 1980s - will give the fund an extra two-year lease on life. But even if their predictions materialize, in 2010 we will face the same situation. By that time, everybody will be protesting about the viability of the system; we will need fresh measures and the life savings of the old privileged pensioners will have been drained.

One of the fundamental problems not addressed by the bill - in fact, it may actually worsen it - is the state's Soviet-style grip on the funds. The situation has certainly served governments but it has done little to help the majority of workers. Governments have offered buy-now-pay-later deals, blanketing problems in the health and social security sectors with extra pension years. In other words, politicians have used the funds for political gain.

We must demand a new social contract that will guarantee a minimum pension for all. However, beyond that point, everyone should be responsible for their own savings. Or we shall have to put up with a monstrous bureaucratic apparatus that will reproduce inequality and poverty.

KATHIMERINI English Edition, 27/03/2008