Despite those concerns, Greece will probably receive its second rescue in two years on Monday, when finance officials gather in Brussels to discuss a $170 billion bailout for the country.
Without it, Greece will run out of money by the end of March, with potentially dire consequences for the global economy as a whole.
Last week, the Greek Parliament approved measures that cut the minimum wage by 22 percent, effective immediately, but trimmed the salaries of the best-paid civil servants 10 percent, effective months from now. Angry rioters torched dozens of buildings in central Athens in reaction to the cuts.
But officials fought until the last moment to spare the largest public pensions from being touched, finally capitulating on Wednesday after European leaders threatened to scotch the bailout altogether.
The rollbacks in social spending, and policies passed last year that increase the tax burden on the poor, have prompted many Greeks to say their leaders are not always fighting for them.
“Politicians,” spat Akis Paputsis, a clerk at a hardware store in a seedy stretch of central Athens. “They’re all friends with each other.”
Until last week, Paputsis, 25, earned $983 a month before taxes, Greece’s minimum wage. With the legislation passed last week, it has dropped to $766, which both he and his girlfriend live on because she can’t find a job — the unemployment rate for those under 25 has soared to 48 percent.
After paying taxes and their $525 monthly rent, they have “nothing,” he said.
10 percent trim at the top
Greece’s largely ceremonial president, Karolos Papoulias, 82, decided last week to give up the $395,000 he was paid annually to receive foreign dignitaries, serve as a moral guide for the country and smooth over differences when the country’s squabbling politicians try to form a government. He announced through an intermediary that it was in solidarity with those who were suffering the most.
Germany’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, who last week jousted with Papoulias over the ability of Greek officials to implement reforms, struck a more sympathetic tone toward regular Greeks in interview excerpts published Saturday, though he still managed to slip in a few implied jabs at their leaders.
“I really feel for the people of Greece,” he told the daily newspaper Der Tagesspiegel. “The vast majority now hard-hit by the reform and austerity measures . . . can do nothing about the backup in reforms, the loss of competitiveness and the unproductive use of funds in the past.”
Papoulias has given up all of his salary, but an average of 10 percent is what most top-paid public workers will have trimmed from their pay this year. Judges, doctors, diplomats and professors, along with uniformed personnel in the military and police, are paid on a wage scale separate from and higher than that of the standard public sector, such as ministry bureaucrats, hospital support staff and local government administrators.