High growth rates fail to bring more Greeks into work

Greece’s high growth rates in recent years are failing to create new jobs, the European Commission points out in its annual report on employment, released in Brussels yesterday. The report shows that the level of employment (the percentage of the economically active population) in Greece – already one of the lowest in the 15-member bloc – improved only minimally in the last five years, at an annual average rate of slightly over 0.3 percent, against a respective EU average of 1.4 percent. According to the report data, the situation deteriorated in the last two years, despite the bonanza of investment subsidies under the Third Community Support Framework and the Olympic projects. In 2001, the employment index fell 0.3 percent and in 2002 by a further 0.2 percent to 56.7 percent – the second lowest in the EU after Italy; it is, however, projected to rise 0.3 percent this year and 0.4 percent in 2004. Greece’s total 1.7 percent rise in employment in the 1997-2002 period was actually the third lowest in the EU, behind Denmark and Austria. For comparative purposes one may refer to Ireland, which was in no better state than Greece when the latter joined what was then the EEC; during the period in question, Ireland’s employment index rose 7.8 percent. Immigrant workers The Commission report also provides an interesting comparison of unemployment levels between Greeks and immigrant workers within the country. Greece appears to be one of the few countries where unemployment among immigrants is lower than among Greeks. The Commission does not express a view on this peculiarity, but one explanation may be the quality of jobs created in Greece: unskilled jobs, for which it is probably more economical to hire immigrants who are poorly placed to fight for social insurance and other rights. In 2002, unemployment among Greeks was 9.9 percent and among immigrants it was 9.6 percent. At EU level, unemployment among natives averages 7.1 percent and among immigrants 15.8 percent. Indeed, in certain countries, like Belgium, unemployment among immigrants is roughly three times as high as among natives. The employment index among immigrants last year stood higher than among Greeks, at 68.4 percent.