The ministry of labour, welfare and social insurance will be spending over 90 per cent of its 2020 budget on social benefits, minister Zeta Emilianidou said on Monday.
Of the €989m budgeted, 93 per cent is earmarked for social benefits, 5 per cent for salaries, and 2 per cent for operating costs.
The 2020 budget is €14.3m lower than that of 2019.
The slight reduction, Emilianidou told MPs, is due to the overall decrease in funding for unemployment and social exclusion programmes, as the jobless rate continues to decline.
The government in general has set a target of bringing unemployment down to at least 5 per cent. Currently it stands at 6.5 per cent, according to official statistics. By comparison, in the wake of the 2013 financial meltdown 16 per cent of the labour force were out of a job.
For 2020, spending is to be cut by €5.4m on child benefits, by €6m on pensioner benefits, by €3.9m on the Guaranteed Minimum Income (GMI), and by €3.5m on asylum seekers.
At the same time, the ministry will spend €1m more on lower-rung pension supplements, and €3.9m extra compared to 2019 on mobility allowances and for disabled persons.
Emilianidou said her ministry is undertaking a “gigantic effort” to assist people in need.
“There is no magic wand to tackle all the issues overnight, because the crisis has left thousands of our fellow citizens with problems that can’t be solved simply through disbursing benefits,” she noted.
The minister said that when GMI was introduced in 2014, authorities received 100,000 applications from people who lacked sufficient means for subsistence.
The government maintains a register of welfare beneficiaries, tracking their assets, income and bank savings.
“The objective was to enable us to see that the money spent is going to those who really need it. Today this register holds data on more than 250,000 families, while 22,300 families are enrolled in GMI.”
Among the ministry’s plans is the creation of special lodgings for people with serious physical and mental disabilities.
According to Emilianidou, these will be ‘family-style’ lodgings within communities, offering specialised services and skills-learning. The aim is to enable individuals to become as self-sufficient as possible, thus avoiding their institutionalisation.
The ministry has also decided to phase out cash counters at welfare offices, and to automate all social insurance contributions, for example through credit card payments.
Another goal is to make available online all welfare applications.