Gov’t works on job rescue plan

Greece is working on a package aimed at helping to support the labor market as the economy shows signs of slowing under the weight of the global crisis. Employment and Social Security Minister Fani Palli-Petralia said yesterday her ministry is holding talks with different groups, such as workers and small business owners, as it puts the program together. «Due to the current crisis and economic conditions, we are working on an intervention program,» she told reporters, without giving a time frame regarding when the package may be complete. Strong economic growth in recent years has helped Greece lower its unemployment rate. In July this year, the country’s jobless figure fell to 7.0 percent from just over 10 percent in July 2004. However, concerns are rising that unemployment figures will jump as the economy has started to lose momentum on weaker consumption and investment activity. «First of all, we will protect those already in employment and, of course, secure stable and quality work for future employees,» added Palli-Petralia. In the draft plan of the 2009 budget submitted to Parliament earlier this month by the Finance Ministry, the government has forecast gross domestic product (GDP) to expand by 3.4 percent this year, with a slowdown of 3 percent seen for 2009. Both figures are soon expected to be revised lower as the crisis starts to bite into the real economy. Economists put their estimated GDP expansion figures for next year at between 1 and 2 percent. The conservative government has already announced plans to use a 28-billion-euro state program to support the country’s financial system by providing lenders with liquidity and a capital injection. Union groups and opposition parties have criticized the conservatives for failing to take steps that could directly shield workers from the crisis.