There are many good things about having four kids. And there is one good thing in particular, about having four kids in Greece. It gives the family a special status, called polyteknos, which means the equivalent of “with many children”. The state offers support to these families in several ways, as a social contribution and as an incentive for all families to have more children.
The criterion to qualify for becoming polyteknos used to be “four or more children” however about four years ago this was extended to “three or more children”, whereby three children families have some restrictions. It’s a bit confusing whether the condition was relaxed because the lower birthrate has made 4-children-families almost extinct, or whether it brought in 3-children-family votes, as it happened to be an election campaign promise, and those who promised it, won.
The state support benefits are varied, such as cheaper public transport, discounted state services, including cultural offerings like museums, ancient sites etc, and – an issue that most Greeks find very attractive – a substantial discount on car tax. There is also a form of cash child support, which in most countries is normal for any number of children, however here, only the select polyteknoi qualify. Our monthly benefit for each child is 43,75 Euro. For anyone needing a context for this monetary amount, a large pack of Pampers lasting 5 days costs 19,99 Euro.
The benefits may well be many, but as with all such things in Greece, they are accompanied by a million disclaimers, there is no listing of what they include and there is total un-clarity as to what one is eligible to really claim and what not.
When we first moved to Greece and finally moved into our new built house, two bills arrived that nearly knocked me out: Electricity and Water. I’ll discuss electricity today, which is right-out amazingly priced! Admittedly, we have a large plot of land that needs watering and we are seven people (including the nanny) living on the premises, so electricity would not have come cheap. But it was double of what we used to pay abroad!
Our first thought was, there has GOT to be a discount for the polyteknos family. Bingo, we were right. All housing bills were in my wife’s name, so she went through the administrative nightmare that is necessary to apply for this reduction. When she was almost through with everything and about to get that famous status in the electricity company’s records, the lady at the desk told her that she did it all wrong, because such benefits can only be given to the husband of the family. Don’t ask. We didn’t either. Early on I learned, that it is never necessary to know the reason in this country. It completely and utterly suffices to know what is needed, to get the job done. So my wife entered a second round of form filling, got my name on the electricity bill and the moment arrived: I got my big fat stamp: POLYTEKNOS. We were happily waiting for our next bill, to find out whether the rumor that the discount is actually 40% really materialised.
The bill arrived, however the amount was unchanged from the last time. Our look was blank. My wife started to make enquiries. It turned out that 40% discount was the correct figure, but only if our total electricity consumption had been below about one third of what we had actually consumed. Even one KWhr above the threshold disqualified the discount. In other words: unless you had 7 people living in a tiny flat of 60 square meters, and were living through the night with candle light, the consumption would never be low enough to qualify for the discount.
The concept of fluidity and variability applies to everything over here. What holds true today may have a completely different fate tomorrow. Similarly in this situation, we had the luck that this particular disclaimer was abolished after the next elections, so we now actually enjoy our 40% discount of the overpriced charge. We are now waiting for the polyteknos car tax discounts to be extended to apply to larger vehicles that actually comfortably fit the polyteknos family of 6 people, and that we are allowed an engine power that will make traveling longer distances feasible. Unfortunately elections just happened to no avail. So we may still have a long wait ahead of us.