ECONOMY

Impact of high growth rate on jobs uncertain

Greek unemployment recorded a significant drop to 8.9 percent in the second quarter of the year, from 9.6 percent in the same period of 2002, the National Statistics Service (NSS) announced this week. It is the lowest rate registered since the three-monthly Manpower Organization (OAED) surveys started in 1998. A Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) study, published in the latest bulletin of the Federation of Greek Industries (SEV) – without the latest data – makes previous surveys interesting reading. According to the NSS, the number of jobless has fallen by 100,000 since 2000. Unemployment among men is 5.7 percent, and among women 13.6 percent but falling faster. According to the survey, 39.8 percent of registered unemployed are seeking full-time jobs only, while 48.5 percent are willing to work part-time. Also, one in seven unemployed people reject job offers for various reasons, the main ones being unsuitable place or hours of work (34 percent), unsatisfactory career prospects (22 percent), and unsatisfactory pay (20 percent). The number of registered unemployed who have not worked in the past fell by 4.7 percent to 41 percent of the total. The number of long-term unemployed declined by 3.8 percent to 58.5 percent of the total. Total employment in the second quarter of 2003 rose by 80,000 people, or 1.7 percent, from a year earlier. In addition, 93,000 people that were jobless a year earlier found employment in the second quarter of 2003. The rate of part-time employment remains low and stable, at 4.5 percent. Of the part-time unemployed, 31 percent did not want a full-time job while 40 percent could not find one. The NSS warns that OAED surveys seriously underestimate the total number of immigrants due to the lack of relevant data and the geographical mobility of this group of workers. IOBE analyzed employment data of the past five years and concluded that the high growth rates of the Greek economy made a limited contribution to employment in the last five years (1998-2002). IOBE notes that a long-term analysis (since 1990) confirms a negative, and statistically significant, correlation between employment and growth in Greece: GDP growth is followed by a small reduction rather than rise in employment, in contrast to all other EU members. But IOBE says it is possible the large influx of immigrants, many unregistered, distorts data. This is a hypothesis which cannot be verified, it cautions. The economically non-active population fell from 50.95 percent of the total in 1998 to 48.65 percent in 2002, when the EU average is 56 percent and rising.