Higher benefits and subsidies

Unemployment benefits will increase 10 percent from the beginning of 2004 and will range from 12.45 to 13.17 euros daily, up from 11.32 to 11.97 euros. The decision was signed yesterday by Labor Minister Dimitris Reppas. Another decision launches two new programs providing incentives for enterprises to employ jobless people and to provide aid to young would-be entrepreneurs. The employment program is open to all unemployed aged 18-64 but specifically targets people with special needs, repatriating Greeks, refugees and persons just released from prison. The program will provide incentives for enterprises to employ a total of 2,400 people for 24 months. Small enterprises, employing under 25 staff, will have the obligation to employ the people for an additional six months, while larger enterprises will have to employ them for an additional 12 months. The program excludes banks and public utilities,as well as private companies specializing in games of chance. The government also wants to help 400 new entrepreneurs by subsidizing the creation of small local firms. The subsidy will last 16 months and will range from 10,600 to 12,000 euros, depending on the entrepreneur’s age. This program excludes businesses exclusively open at night or involved in games of chance. These programs are part of the government’s drive to provide aid to lower-income groups in what government opponents have called a package of pre-electoral largesse. National elections must take place by early May, at the latest.