A fall in the number of jobs available and smaller pay rises are two of the main characteristics of the Greek labor market in 2003 in relation to 2002, and the outlook for 2004 is one of further deterioration, according to the 10th annual salaries and benefits research study conducted by KPMG business consultants. The report says that pay rises averaged 5.8 percent this year and are expected to fall to 5.4 percent in 2004. New jobs this year are 3,102 against 4,042 last year. Despite this, 50 percent of the firms that participated in the survey expressed the intention of hiring more personnel this year, due to one or more of several reasons; 52 percent said this was dictated by their growth plans, 37 percent cited the need for new skills and specializations to meet growing requirements, and 29 percent cited their good performance. As regards remuneration for new staff who have just completed their studies, the sectors of advanced technology, marketing and engineering seem to offer the highest initial salaries, while the lowest are to be found in human resource management. According to the study, the average initial annual salary for staff with graduate studies in the engineering disciplines is 16,471 euros, while the corresponding figure for human resource management is 12,908 euros. The overwhelming majority (95 percent) of firms apply bonus benefit policies for certain categories of employees, while stock options are gaining ground as an alternative form of variable remuneration of a long-term character. Nevertheless, due to adverse economic circumstances, stock options appear to be exercised only by a minority of staff. Of the firms questioned, 33 percent provide stock options to staff, 14 percent give free shares, mainly to senior executives, while 11 percent apply dividend distribution policies. The KPMG study was based on a sample of 273 of the most prominent multinationals (accounting for 64 percent) and Greek firms (36 percent) active in Greece, employing a total of 34,000 personnel. It contains analytical data on salaries and benefits in the sectors of consumer products, retailing, industry, cars, pharmaceuticals, advanced technology, banking, insurance and advertising.