The Strategist

Low pensions make Greek pensioners immigrate to Bulgaria

11/12/2018 - 11:51

Greek pensioners can live on their pensions only in Bulgaria, the poorest country in the European Union.

In recent years, the Greek diaspora in Bulgaria has been growing. Moreover, the overwhelming majority of immigrants are elderly. The significant predominance of old people is explained simply - over the past decade, pensions of Greek pensioners have been reduced so many times (at least 20!) and they have become so small that it is now very difficult for them to live in Greece. Perhaps the only place where the older Greeks can live on the money that the socialist government, led by Alexis Tsipras, pays them, is Bulgaria, a country with the lowest standard of living in the European Union according to official data.

There is nothing surprising in the pilgrimage of the elderly Greeks to Bulgaria. According to Eurostat, the cost of living in Greece in 2017 was twice as high as in Bulgaria. For example, gasoline in Sofia is 0.3 euro per liter, and 0.42 - in Athens. Metro ticket in the Bulgarian capital costs 0.8 euro, and 1.4 - in the Greek. The subscription fee of mobile operators in Bulgaria is twice lower than in Greece. The list of products, goods and services in Bulgaria is much cheaper than in Greece, and the list can be continued indefinitely.

There is some kinds of irony in the recent tendency in Greece to leave old people to live out their lives in poorer countries. The fact is that Greece is still one of the few European countries where retirees from other countries are happy to move. As you might guess, we are talking about the rich Western countries, where the elderly receive a decent pension.

Meanwhile, it is still too early for Greek pensioners to relax. Alexis Tsipras, at least verbally, does his best to at least delay the next pension cut, but, most likely, his efforts will be in vain and next year’s Greek pensioners will have to take their the calculators and once again count on what else can they save to live on retirement.

There is no reduction in pensions in the draft budget of Greece for 2019, presented by Athens on October 15. The paper was agreed in 2017 after months of negotiations on the allocation of the next tranche of the assistance program. Yet, such an option is theoretically possible only if Greece succeeds in accomplishing the tasks set for the budget deficit and meets the 3.5% of GDP. The Tsipras government hopes for the best, but most economists are skeptical. Brussels will make a final decision on the Greek budget at the end of November. It can be assumed that if the government still has to reduce pensions, the number of pensioners from Greece in Bulgaria will increase even more.


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