Measuring distance to the SDG targets – Greece

Greece has already achieved 18 of the 123 SDG targets for which comparable data are available and, based on most recent trends, is expected to meet 7 additional targets by 2030 (Figure 1). As virtually all OECD countries, Greece has already met (or is close to meeting) most targets related to securing basic needs and implementing policy tools and frameworks mentioned in the 2030 Agenda (see Table 1). The quality of the environment is one of Greece main assets. Yet, Greece has undergone extensive reforms to cope with a deep recession and the legacy of the crisis still weighs heavily on many aspects of people lives.

This country profile provides a high-level overview of some of Greece’s strengths and challenges in performance across the SDG Targets. As such, it differs from Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) or other reporting processes. To ensure international comparability, this assessment builds on the global indicator framework and relies on data sourced from the SDG Global Database and OECD databases. VNRs typically use national indicators that reflect national circumstances and are more up-to-date (See section How to read this country profile that provides some methodological details on country profiles).

The quality of the environment is one of Greece’s main assets. The decline in economic activity and energy demand during the recession, and the increase in renewable energy sources, have led to decrease in greenhouse gas emissions per unit of GDP (Target 13.2). Yet, the use of renewable energy sources remains below the OECD average (Target 7.2). When it comes to the protection of biodiversity, protected areas cover 35% of the terrestrial area but only 5% of the territorial sea. Yet, more than 80% of freshwater, terrestrial, mountain and marine areas that are considered to be key for biodiversity are already covered by protected areas (Targets 14.5, 15.1, 15.4). On use of natural resources, Greece has below-average and decreasing levels of Domestic Material Consumption per capita and per GDP (Target 12.2 and 8.4). Still, urgent efforts are needed to improve waste management (Targets 12.3 and 12.5).

People in Greece have good health, but several factors pose risks to future prospects. Overall, Greece shows good health status. As in most OECD countries Greece already met targets on maternal and infant mortality (Targets 3.1 and 3.2) – but the latter appears to be on the rise. Overall performance on communicable diseases (including HIV, Tuberculosis, Hepatitis B) is good. While further progress in combating non-communicable is needed, mortality is decreasing and deaths from suicide are among the lowest across OECD countries (Target 3.4). Yet, when it comes to risk factors or health system performance the picture is more nuanced. While immunisation rates are above (or very close) to WHO targets (Target 3.b) and alcohol consumption is low and decreasing (Target 3.5), the high rates of obesity (Target 2.2) and tobacco consumption (Target 3.a) as well as air pollution (Target 3.9) challenge people’s health. In addition, reforms implemented since the 2010 financial crisis translated into a rapid decrease in public health expenditure and higher out-of-pocket health spendings (Target 3.8).

Greece has undergone extensive reforms to cope with the 2009 financial crisis. While the economy started to recover in 2017, the legacy of the crisis weighs on innovation as well as on income and jobs. Hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic and the legacy of the financial crisis, both GDP and labour productivity declined over the past 15 years (Targets 8.1 and 8.2). In addition, the unemployment rate (Target 8.5), as well as the share of young people not in education, employment or training (Target 8.6), remain above the OECD average. Indicators supporting the assessment of Goal 9 on industries, innovation and infrastructure show that manufacturing value added is declining and accounted for only 8% of GDP in 2020 – 6 percentage points below the OECD average (Target 9.2). Despite recent progress, the proportion of R&D expenditure in GDP also remains low (Target 9.5). When it comes to income distribution, both relative income poverty and multi-dimensional poverty are high (Targets 1.2 and 10.2) while inequality has been on the rise, with the income of the bottom 40% growing at a slower pace than the national average (Target 10.1). Greece is also far away from achieving Targets 10.3 on inequalities for racial and ethnic minorities.

Skills need to be improved while a low share of adults engage in lifelong learning. While participation and completion rates from pre-primary to upper secondary education are very high, too many children and young people lack minimum proficiency in reading and mathematics (Targets 4.1 and 4.2), while disparities in education outcomes are large among students from different socio-economic backgrounds (Target 4.5). In addition, around three in ten adults lack functional numeracy and reading skills (Target 4.6). Greece also has the lowest participation rate of adults in formal and non-formal education among OECD countries (Target 4.3). Although increasing, only a small share of young people and adults have diverse set of ICT skills, hampering their employment prospects (Target 4.4).

Tackling unequal opportunities for minorities and women requires further efforts. Greece still lacks a comprehensive legal framework to foster gender equality – except in the area of employment and economic benefits (Targets 5.1 and 5.3). Women bear the lion share of unpaid care and housework (Target 5.4) and they are underrepresented in decision-making in both the public and economic spheres (Targets 5.5 and 16.7) – only 20% of seats in the national parliament are held by women. Beyond gender inequality, more should be done to meet targets relating to equality of opportunity and to improve conditions for minorities – more than four in ten people believe that Greece is a not good place to live for racial and ethnic minorities (Target 10.3).

Greece remains far from achieving targets relating to governance and institutions. Trust in others and in government are low, reflecting a mix of economic, social and political factors. Greece has not yet made enough progress towards targets in areas that are critical for creating well-functioning institutions. In Greece, around one in three people does not feel safe when walking alone at night in their neighbourhood and citizen’s confidence in the judicial system is very low (Target 16.6). One in three detainees are unsentenced while unofficial data from the World Justice Project suggest that there is wide scope for improvement on civil justice (Target 16.3). Diversity of the central government workforce also appears to be limited (Target 16.7).

Like in many other OECD countries, data availability remains a challenge when measuring distances to targets (see the Overview chapter for details). For Greece, available data on the level of the different indicators allow covering 123 of the 169 targets. As shown in Figure 2 below, indicator coverage is uneven across the 17 goals. While seven goals have most of their targets covered (the indicator coverage exceeds 80%), coverage is lower for Goal 11 on cities and Goal 13 on climate action, with fewer than half of their targets covered. Data gaps become starker when focusing on performance indicators, i.e. excluding those providing contextual information. In this case, coverage exceeds 80% for only Goal 3 on health. Moreover, for seven goals, mostly within Planet category (Goals 12, 13, 14 and 15) but also in Goals 5 on gender equality, 11 on cities and 17 on partnerships, data are lacking to monitor progress over time for more than two in three targets.

While some SDG Targets are, on average, close to being met, performance is very uneven across the 17 Goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Table 1 presents an overview of Greece’s progress towards targets based on available data for each of the 17 Goals. It shows that distances to Targets and trends over time differ significantly even when considering a specific goal.

The OECD report The Short and Winding Road to 2030: Measuring Distance to the SDG Targets evaluates the distance that OECD countries need to travel to meet SDG targets for which data are currently available. It also looks at whether countries have been moving towards or away from these targets, and how likely they are to meet their commitments by 2030, based on an analysis of recent trends and the observed volatility in the different indicators.

As most authors and international organisations, this report adopts a rather simple geometric growth model for assessing the direction and pace of recent changes in the context of the SDGs. Yet, instead of making direct estimates of the value of the indicator by 2030, it models the likelihood of achieving a specific level using Monte Carlo simulations.

While the report provides an overview of where OECD countries, taken as a whole, currently stand, country profiles provide details of the performance and data availability of individual OECD countries.

Progress on SDGs requires a granular understanding of countries’ strengths and weaknesses based on the consideration of the 169 targets of the 2030 Agenda. Figure 1 shows both current achievements (in the inner circle; the longer the bar, the smaller the distance remaining to be travelled) as well as whether OECD countries are on track (or are at least making progress) to meet their commitments by 2030 (in the outer circle).

The length of each bar shows current level of achievement on each target. As detailed in the Methodological Annex, countries’ distance to target is measured as the “standardised difference” between a country’s current position and the target end-value. For each indicator, the standardised measurement unit (s.u.) is the standard deviation observed among OECD countries in the reference year (i.e. the year closest to 2015). Therefore, the longer the bar, the shorter the distance still to be travelled to reach the target by 2030. The colours of the bars applied to the various targets refer to the goals they pertain to.

The outer ring shows how OECD countries are performing over time and how likely they are to meet the different targets by 2030 based on the observed trends of the various indicators. It uses stoplight colours to classify the progress towards the target:

  • green is used to indicate those countries that (based on the change in the different indicators over a recent period) should meet the target in 2030 just by maintaining their current pace of progress (i.e. more than 75% of (randomised) projections meet the target);

  • yellow for those countries whose current pace of progress is insufficient to meet the target by 2030 (i.e. less than 75% of randomised projections meet the target, while the correlation coefficient between the indicator and the year is high and statistically significant, implying that a significant trend could be detected); and

  • red for those countries whose recent changes have been stagnating or moving them further away from the target (i.e. less than 75% of randomised projections meet the target and the correlation coefficient between the indicator and the year is low or statistically insignificant, implying that no statistical trend could be identified).

With the aim of helping its member countries in navigating the 2030 Agenda and in setting their own priorities for action, this report relies on a unique methodology for measuring the distance that OECD countries have to travel to achieve SDG targets. The identification of the main strengths and challenges proposed in this report relies on current performances only:

  • A target is considered to be a strength when the distance to the target end-value is lower than 0.5 s.u. (i.e. the distance is deemed to be small) or when the country is closer to the target than the OECD average. For instance, while Korea's distance to Target 2.2 on malnutrition is 1.4 s.u. (i.e. classified as medium distance), the average OECD distance is 2.5 s.u. Therefore, Target 2.2 is categorised as being a strength for Korea.

  • A target is considered to be a challenge when the distance to target is greater than 1.5 s.u. (i.e. distance is deemed to be long) or when the country is further away from the target than the OECD average. For instance, Estonia's distance to Target 4.2 on pre-primary education is 1.1 s.u. (i.e. medium distance), which is higher than the 0.24 s.u. distance for the OECD average. Target 4.2 is therefore classified as a weakness for Estonia.

While the lack of consistent time series often prevents an exhaustive assessment of trends, they are discussed when available and relevant in nuancing the assessment of current performance.

In total, this report relies on 537 data series supporting 183 of the 247 indicators listed in the global indicator framework (or for close proxies of these indicators). These indicators cover 134 of the 169 SDG targets. Yet, target coverage is uneven across the 17 goals and among OECD member countries.

Figure 2 summarises data availability:

  • darker blue bars indicate the share of targets for which at least one indicator (including indicators providing context information) is available

  • lighter blue bars indicate the share of targets for which the available indicator(s) include those having a clear normative direction (i.e. allowing to distinguish between good and bad performance), which are the only ones used to measure distances to target levels.

  • medium blue bars indicate the share of targets for which progress over time can be gauged (i.e. at least three observations are available over a five-year period).

All methods and concepts are further detailed in the Methodological Annex.

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