ECONOMY

Position of foreign workers improves but problems remain

A number of studies have shown that Greece’s recent and projected high growth rates are partly due to the contribution of immigrant workers, which is estimated at around 1 percent of GDP. They are also credited with helping the economy attain criteria for entry into the eurozone, keeping inflation at bay and bolstering flagging sectors of industry and agriculture. This positive record was set out in the conclusions to a two-day seminar jointly organized by the Dutch Embassy and the ministries of Labor, Education and Interior at the University of Athens. However, it was also pointed out that the phenomenon is not devoid of negative aspects. The main one is the tendency for low-cost immigrant labor to remain unregistered, thereby preventing an increase in employment and boosting the black economy. According to the conclusions of the seminar, the substitution of Greek workers with immigrants affects 27 percent of the indigenous labor force. According to a study by Panteios University Professor Antonia Lymberaki and Lois Lambrianidis on Albanian immigrants in Thessaloniki, they have a higher average educational level than indigenous workers. Their average stay in Greece is 6.5 years for men and 5.2 years for women. Lymberaki said the population of economic immigrants in Greece is approaching 1 million and represents 8.5 percent of the productively active population. Albania is the origin of 65 percent of them, while a further 18 percent come from Bulgaria, Romania, Poland and Georgia. Their average family annual income is around 3.24 million drachmas. The conclusions also point to a gradual improvement in the economic position of immigrants, particularly those who have been legalized, while recently introduced legislation on immigration has not taken account of labor market requirements in specific specializations. The minister will have his hands full tackling a swath of problems. Following Greece’s entry into the eurozone at the beginning of the year, critics said the government’s economic strategy appeared to have lost both momentum and direction. The privatization program has fallen behind schedule, due as much to government inertia as to the global slowdown. Plans to reform the tax system, simplify bureaucratic processes and open up markets have also faced lengthy delays.