COMMENT

The jobless generation

By Christina Kopsini

Not a single measure has been introduced over the past few years aimed at helping jobless Greeks who are middle-aged or older. Labor Ministry officials behave as if unemployment is not an issue among people in those age groups.

The fact is that the particularities of each age group have been mostly lost in the waves of horizontal, one-size-fits-all programs since the key criteria are usually the absorption of funds and often reckless fulfillment of the debt-wracked country’s commitments to its foreign lenders.

However, high unemployment rates among the middle-aged-and-over groups are not just a social problem. They also have implications that affect Greece’s fiscal sustainability and social security. As baby boomers – meaning those born between 1946 through 1964 – head toward retirement and the ratio of workers to retirees drops, the deficit dogging Greece’s social security funds is bound to grow.

Data presented during a recent conference organized by the Economic and Social Council of Greece (OKE) are particularly disconcerting regarding people in the aforementioned age group, which makes up 51.8 percent of the Greek population and 67.4 percent of the economically inactive population.

According to data presented at the event by Panteion University professor Savvas Rombolis, the number of unemployed in that age group is twofold compared to that among the young generation, at 359,000 over 178,000.

Furthermore, older people are finding it tougher to deal with the implications of having to stay at home. They are forced into early retirement and use their savings to buy out their remaining social security credits, or they have to do odd jobs here and there to make ends meet.

This is largely because only 3.2 percent of those in the 45-64 age group have a postgraduate degree. Only one in five has a university degree. Also, only 30 percent finished senior high school. Most have low qualifications. One in three is self-employed while the percentage of salaried workers stands at 54.5 percent.

Older citizens are more likely to end up without a job, and when that happens they tend to be excluded from the labor market. Of the 359,000 unemployed in the 45-64 age group, 77.6 percent are long-term unemployed – that is they have been out of work for 12 months or more.

Most of these people have collected their social security credits in construction (one in five), retail (18 percent) and manufacturing (15.7 percent).

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