The figure of 53 years old as an average retirement age is being bandied about. So much, in fact, that it is being seen as fact. The figure actually originates from a lazy comment on the NY Times website. It was then repeated by Fox News and printed on other publications. Greek civil servants have the option to retire after 17.5 years of service, but this is on half benefits. The figure of 53 is a misinformed conflation of the number of people who choose to do this (in most cases to go on to different careers) and those who stay in public service until their full entitlement becomes available. Looking at Eurostat’s data from 2005 the average age of exit from the labour force in Greece (indicated in the graph below as EL for Ellas) was 61.7; higher than Germany, France or Italy and higher than the EU27 average. Since then Greece have had to raise the minimum age of retirement twice under bail-out conditions and so this figure is likely to rise further.
The graph is at the link. That analysis seems more plausible than the competing accounts, but if you believe it to be wrong, please enlighten us in the comments.
And if the lending of money wasn’t enough, the paranoia that Turkey (also a member of NATO) will invade Greece has led to an arms race. Think of what was going on: France was lending money to Greece, to buy French arms. Let alone that most (all?) of the 12 Phantoms Greece bought in 1988 have crashed since during exercises (second grade quality?), killing most of their pilots. Not to mention that because of bribery to civil servants from foreign medical companies, Greece pays 3x the amount of money for medicines and medical instruments than any other European country.
In other words, the problems are more cultural than we might think and less susceptible to direct fiscal management than we might think. All of the posts are interesting throughout.