During the 1980s significant efforts were made to improve social care and health care. In 1983, a national health system was introduced that guarantees all citizens healthcare regardless of income. Public hospital care maintains high quality in international comparison and the medical density is high. However, primary care has been a problem with inadequate short-term care and a shortage of nurses. In principle, all Greeks are covered by one of the health insurance policies borne by employer-funded social insurance funds. A small but growing proportion have private health insurance. Corruption in various parts and at different levels of the health care sector has developed into a major problem both for the Greek state and for citizens in need of health care. In 2009, the healthcare sector accounted for 10.6% of Greece’s GDP.
The Greek pension system is comprehensive, complex and subject to much criticism. Visit AbbreviationFinder to see the definitions of GRC and acronym for Greece. Insufficient and unclear financing combined with generous pension terms contributed to Greece approaching a state-financial collapse at the end of the 1990s. Reforms of the pension system with increased retirement age, reduced pensions and increased payments to the system were also the focus of the Papandreou government’s crisis management. A pension reform was carried out throughout 2010, despite widespread popular protests. This meant that the retirement age for women was increased to 65 (the same retirement age as for men), that the opportunities for early retirement were limited and that the level of pension payments was linked to the financial market.
The woman’s position has improved significantly over the past 30 years. Equality clauses are now enshrined in the law. 43 percent of working-age women gain employment. Free abortion was introduced in 1986. At higher educational institutions, the gender distribution is even among the students. Parental leave amounts to at least three and a half months, and child support is paid to all children up to the age of 18 (up to the age of 25 for those attending higher education). The state has made efforts to counteract a declining nativity with tax relief and other benefits. As part of efforts to persuade Greek emigrants to return to their home country, special schools have been set up for their children and laws on financial incentives for them have been established. In 2013, unemployment was about 28 percent and youth unemployment was just under 60 percent.
After the economic crisis hit Greece in 2008, the Nazi party Golden Dawn grew rapidly. It also tried to gain a foothold in Crete, but here the population had a vivid memory of the Nazi wars during World War II, when the island was occupied by German troops. When Golden Dawn began to attack and assassinate people on the left, the Cretans attacked, stormed and smashed their offices – with a good deal of popular support. The Nazis have again had to leave the island.
Population and social groups
We know little about the population of the ancient Greek city states, but it has been calculated from the size of the army and navy. In Athens, there were probably between 260,000 and 300,000 inhabitants when the city was at the height of its power, around 430 BCE. At the same time, Corinth had perhaps 90,000 inhabitants, while Theben and Akragas (Agrigent) had about 50,000 each. Some city states had only 5000 inhabitants.
Citizens of the Greek city-states
The main element of the Greek city-state was the community of citizens. The citizens defended the city in war, they owned the land and did business. The fact that the citizens were warriors and peasants is an important feature that stands in stark contrast to the conditions in the Middle Ages.
Citizens existed in all social strata. Some belonged to the landowner aristocracy, some were self-sufficient farmers, some were artisans and retailers, and some belonged to the landless. Citizenship was hereditary, and only men could be citizens. In many urban states, such as Athens from the mid-450s, the bourgeoisie was conditioned on both parents coming from bourgeois families. At the age of 20, citizens were given the opportunity to attend the People’s Assembly, but only after the age of 30 did citizens get full rights and could be appointed as officials.
Next to the citizens were metoics. The word means “those who live with the Greeks,” and refer to strangers, Greeks or Orientalists, free men who lived and worked in Athens and who did war service in their own contingents with the citizens.
The main difference was that the Metoics could not own land or participate in political life. By the way, the metoics belonged to all social strata, where their main industries were trade and crafts. The number of metoics in Athens around the year 430 was between 10,000 and 15,000 adult men. If you count in addition to their families, the number comes to 30-40,000.
Slaves and other non-slaves
During the same period, the slave population may have numbered over 100,000. Common to the slaves was that they were another man’s property, but their social and economic position was very different. Many families had house slaves for relief in daily life, and these often had as good material and financial as the rest of the family. Some farmers had slave help on the farm, though by a pronounced seasonal work it was not unconditionally profitable to feed on a slave all year. Many used slaves in craft businesses, where they often worked side by side with the owner’s family and with hired work help.
It seemed that the slave for a fee to the owner worked on his own. In this way the slave could make a profit and eventually buy himself free. Only rarely do we hear about slave owners who had several dozen or even a few hundred slaves for rent. There were some public slaves in the administration, and the Athenian order police also consisted of slaves.
Large-scale slave mining occurred only in the mines, and especially the silver mines in Laureion. Those who worked here were poor and are the group that comes closest to what we associate with slaves in modern times.
It is difficult to say anything for certain about the slaves’ contribution to the Athens economy, but it can safely be said that they had a fundamental significance. Although in the economic sense one can speak of a “slave-owner democracy,” one cannot speak of any “slave-owner mentality,” perhaps with the exception of the use of slaves in mines and quarries. Most Athenians had to work hard for their entertainment and lived in modest conditions. Free men and slaves often performed the same work and often together.
Many slaves became closely associated with their owner and could hope to be released and thus gain metoic status. We do not hear revolts, and hardly anything about proposals for the abolition of slavery. It was accepted as something of course in a society that knew nothing else and where anyone could become a slave in the next war.
The women were without political and legal rights, and their function was in the home and in the service of the family. They were also absent in social life. This led, among other things, to the emergence of the hot institution. The heroes were women who were outside the strict family structures, and many heroes were professional ladies and entertainers attending parties where the family women did not have access. Some of them were prostitutes. The heroes were most often immigrants, and they were among the few women who had an independent economy.
The strict separation between the genders also led to homosexuality being both more widespread and more accepted than in most other societies. Especially in Sparta, where young boys were raised outside the home, homosexuality was emphasized as a means of teaching the young to live up to the adult manhood.