University graduates take much longer to find a job than high school graduates, according to a study published yesterday by the National Statistics Service (NSS). According to the study’s findings, female university graduates wait an average of 36 months before they find their first job. For male graduates, this period is 41 months. For graduates of high schools, or people who just finish the obligatory nine years of school, the period of waiting before they enter the labor market varies from four to 11 months, with women again waiting less. The study’s findings are a clear indication of how university studies fail to prepare students adequately for a professional career. The NSS data is based on a survey of 7,656 people, aged 15-35, who completed their studies between 1990 and 1999. A better future awaits graduates of higher education, who specialize in service sector professions. Men find a job, on the average, after 20 months, while women have to wait for 24 months. The NSS also conducted a study of 30,868 households, where at least one person is employed. The majority of these households contained salaried workers. Among all employees, 86.2 percent have a fixed work schedule, and only 13.8 percent have a flexible schedule. There are now great differences according to gender: 14.6 percent of men and 12.5 percent of women work flexible hours. The low percentage of people who work flexible hours is partly to explain for the persistently high unemployment in Greece. According to NSS data, the unemployment rate in the fourth quarter of 2002 was 9.7 percent, higher than the 9.5 percent rate in the third quarter. The average rate of the previous 12 months, however, dipped to 9.9 percent, the first time in many years that unemployment has dipped below 10 percent. Quarterly unemployment peaked at 12.4 percent of the work force in the fourth quarter of 1999, while annual average unemployment peaked at 12 percent in the first quarter of 2000. Until the 1980s, Greece was considered a country of very low unemployment. However, it is difficult to measure the difference because official statistics back then were notoriously unreliable. Greek unemployment kept rising throughout the 1990s, a period when it fell in the rest of the European Union. At the end of the decade, Greece had the second-highest percentage of unemployed in the EU, behind Spain. The latest NSS data revealed that, of the 428,000 unemployed people at the end of 2002, 163,700 or about 38 percent, wanted only full employment and would accept no less than that; 54.4 percent said they would accept part-time employment. But part-time employment opportunities are relatively rare, except in the gray market and in very low-paid jobs. This is mostly a result of union opposition to part-time employment. NSS also showed that 17 percent of the jobless, about 73,000 percent had rejected job offers. Of these, 35 percent said no because the location and working hours were inconvenient; another 20 percent found the wages too low and 18 percent considered that the job offered few advancement opportunities.