About 1,000 Pensioners demonstrate against the austerity measures in central Athens on Thursday Dec. 15, 2011. (Photo:AP)
Poverty in Greece has risen to new heights under a gruelling recession exacerbated by austerity that has swelled the ranks of the unemployed, the homeless and the destitute, experts said on Saturday.
In comments to Ethnos daily, public officials, senior churchmen and welfare group representatives warned of a brooding humanitarian crisis as official data showed over 320,000 people had lost their jobs in a year.
Athens Mayor George Kaminis told the daily that the city's homeless had increased by around 20 per cent while queues at soup kitchens organised by municipal and church organisations were up 15 per cent.
"Care workers no longer meet typical homeless people, they meet a person who likely had a perfectly organised life weeks previously," said Kaminis, who has asked for additional state funding for city welfare services.
"We have noticed a dramatic increase in our mess halls over the recent period," added Chrysostomos Symeonidis, head of the Athens archdiocese poverty fund.
"We distribute over 10,000 meals on a daily basis and 250,000 meals are given out nationwide on a weekly basis," Symeonidis said.
Greek unions warn that the number of jobless will exceed 20 per cent next year because of the recession and public sector cutbacks demanded by the country's creditors, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.
The Greek government has pledged to reduce the state payroll by 150,000 people by 2015 but only a fraction will be staff already near retirement.
Greece is in the grip of a four-year recession set to continue next year, bringing the cumulative fall in economic output to 15 per cent, according to EU estimates.
Official data this week showed there were over 878,000 people out of work in the third quarter of the year, most of them women and persons aged under 30.
The state statistics agency said the number of employed had fallen to nearly 4.1 million from 4.4 million a year earlier.
"It can be quite hard for young people who can't find work, but imagine the psychological anxiety of someone my age," 60-year-old radio technician George Barkouris, who lost his job just before retirement, told Ethnos.
"Everything shows that the family fabric as we once knew it is fading, those close to us aren't there when you need them the most," said Barkouris, who has children but is now staying at a homeless shelter.