ECONOMY

Employment market fails test of gainful jobs

Why does a third-year college mathematics student in Ioannina decide to transfer to the police academy at the other end of the country in Didymoteicho? Why does another student from a prosperous family and studying philosophy in Athens also decide to join the force? Recent trends in the labor force show that more and more students appear to be abandoning university studies for occupations with immediate earning benefits, permanent employment status and set working hours in the public sector. Despite their evident occupational hazards, jobs in the police, the coast guard or the armed forces are increasingly attracting young people who see no earning potential in their fields of study. According to data compiled by Adecco, the multinational firm specializing in human resources selection, 67 percent of 2,317 people aged 18-35 between March and May were not working in positions related to their studies; 53,37 percent did not believe that a college degree would help them find a job and only 20 percent thought there would be a positive link between a degree and employment. In a 2003 study, the General Confederation of Greek Workers’ (GSEE) Labor Institute concluded that that most job openings in recent years have not required much education, mainly because companies are trying to keep labor costs low. The market doesn’t even appear to tap opportunities for further training, an area in which Greece lags in the European Union. Tens of thousands of people opt for self-employment in small businesses like kiosks, snack outlets or coffee shops, often helped by start-up subsidies for a limited period, but abandon them once they prove unviable. Relatively few new jobs have emerged in large enterprises. Even fewer are small and flexible businesses which opt for technological modernization and tap real talent emerging from the country’s technical schools. Indeed, it is not rare for an unemployed graduate to hide his qualificiations in order to be considered employable in a position requiring only a high-school leaving certificate or knowledge of a foreign language. Responsibilities A large portion of the responsibility for this situation rests with politicians and labor unionists, the intermediaries between society and the economy. In good measure, the politicians set the bad example, even in the way they utilize their qualified staff, whose pay is subsidized. Most of these well-educated people write speeches for their employers, do secretarial work and navigate the bureaucracy to do favors for the political clientele. The «downgrading» of degrees is also happening, even when term-contract workers in the public sector are upgraded to permanent employment status. Labor unionists affiliated with the opposition PASOK party in a state-controlled enterprise eliminate specialities requiring professional licenses and promote others needing lower qualifications so they can have their permanent employment approved. Meanwhile, GSEE officials came up with a simple training program called «Academy of Labor.» The idea was supported by PASOK’s senior leadership, which perhaps hoped that in this way it would usher into society the idea of a «non-public university.»