Low interest in part-time jobs, below-average job satisfaction Contrary to popular belief, the spread of flexible forms of employment, notably part-time work, is not identified with neo-liberal economic policies, according to an empirical study by the Manpower Organization’s (OAED) employment monitor. The study notes that in countries such as Germany and Sweden, whose labor markets are not considered deregulated, the incidence of part-time work is high, 20.3 and 24.1 percent, respectively, compared to 13 percent in the USA and an average of 17.9 percent in the EU. The Greek rate is 4 percent, the lowest in the EU, and falling. The report disputes the idea that this is due to low pay, citing Portugal, where wages are comparable but the rate of part-time work is 10.8 percent. By contrast, France, with a higher-than-EU-average wage level, has a-lower-than-average part-time work rate. Temporary work appears more widespread in Sweden, Finland and France, and limited in the UK and USA. In Greece, it is 9 percent, against an EU average of 12.6 percent. The study finds that the spread of flexible forms of work in Greece is impeded by the high incidence of self-employment – 43.8 percent against a 16.6 percent EU average – and the high number of small businesses – 64.6 percent of people are employed in firms of less than 10, against 36.1 in the EU as a whole. Only 64.9 percent of Greeks consider work conditions satisfactory (EU, 82.9 percent). Merrill Lynch trims outlook for Greek banking sector, keeps individual banks Merrill Lynch said yesterday it had trimmed its earnings-per-share outlook for the Greek banking sector while maintaining investment recommendations for individual banks. «Amid further deterioration of the ASE and higher-than-expected deceleration in retail lending, we are downgrading our EPS forecast for the Greek banks by an average of 6 percent for 2003 and by 3.4 percent for 2004-2005,» it said in a research note. Merrill Lynch said it maintained its «buy» recommendation for Alpha Bank and «neutral» ratings for Commercial Bank, National Bank and EFG Eurobank. Separately, Alpha Bank announced a 0.25 percent cut in its floating mortgage rate to 5.75 percent. Based on provisional Bank of Greece data, the outstanding balance of home loans reached 21.22 billion euros in December 2002, a 35.6 percent increase year-on-year. (Reuters) Informer IT group Informer subsidiary Airwave Enterprises has reached a provisional agreement to buy 51 percent of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’s (FYROM) NPK, the country’s credit card processing center, subject to an ongoing audit. NPK is 25 percent-owned by the FYROM government. Single market Bruno Vever, chair of the European and Social Committee’s Single Market Observatory, which conferred in Thessaloniki yesterday, proposed a European Charter for small enterprises. He called for the promotion of a single market in services and said interest is increasingly focusing on quality. Grigoris Fast-food chain Grigoris has launched the ninth outlet of its Coffeeright chain in Prague’s Centrum Cerny Most shopping mall.