- Social Policy Development in Greece
If, like me, readers have been frustrated by the lack of a publication that provides an overview of the key features of Greek social policy, then Maria Petmesidou's and Elias Mossialos's edited volume is a very welcome publication. This undertaking should not be underestimated. To my knowledge, this is the first attempt to assemble a collection of essays that spans an impressive range—from the historical trajectory of Greek social policy development, to issues of inequality and poverty, to studies on pensions, employment, gender, health, and immigration policy (among other subjects).
Without a doubt, the breadth and scope of this volume is its strongest asset. Everything one may wish to know about the specifics of the Greek welfare model can be found here. The sectoral case studies, although diverse in their [End Page 444] methodological and disciplinary approaches, provide a rich and fascinating "state of the art" snapshot. The quality of individual contributions is very high, comparable to other major country-specific accounts found in the English-language literature. In particular, I would single out the chapters by Maria Petmesidou on the historical development of social protection in Greece, Dionissis Gravaris on reform initiatives over the past two decades, Panos Tsakloglou and Theodoros Mitrakos on inequality, Kevin Featherstone and Platon Tinios on pension reform, Seraphim Seferiades on employment policy, Konstantina Davaki and Elias Mossialos on heath care, and Iordanis Psimmenos on immigration.
Despite such excellent individual contributions, the book falls a little short in delivering a robust comparative perspective on either a cross-country or cross-sectoral basis. In truth, the editors warn readers in their introduction that the Greek case is not systematically compared to other European or south European/Mediterranean countries. Given the breadth of coverage, this may be entirely understandable. However, had the regional case studies covered a number of common themes, the reader could have been better guided to reach general conclusions about the nature of social policy in Greece. While the identification and operationalization of such common themes is by no means an easy task, had the editors and authors of the book been able to do this, the volume's relevance for non-social policy experts (such as scholars with a wider interest in Greek public policy or in the varieties of European capitalism) would have been greatly enhanced.
I also note that the relevance of the European Union (EU), although identified in some of the sectoral cases, has not been fully "unpacked" or comprehensively assessed. Recent efforts of the EU to deliver its "Lisbon agenda" which, if ratified, would make it the most competitive economy in the world, will likely reshape the entire range of social policy in Greece as well as in all the member states of the EU. However, while the introductory remarks by Petmesidou and Mossialos, as well as the concluding ones by Peter Taylor-Gooby, point to strong European pressures, none of the authors delivers an adequate framework within which to place the Greek case. A stand-alone chapter on this issue would have been a welcome addition to this collection.
Despite its limited comparative framework, the authors deliver excellent results on the goals set by the editors in the introduction—namely, to offer an in-depth understanding of the evolution and content of Greek social policy. Scholars of Greek politics and, indeed, of European social policy in general will find this book an authoritative and informative contribution to the literature. Indeed, many of the individual chapters could serve as excellent starting points from which to place the Greek case in a wider theoretical and comparative perspective. [End Page 445]