ECONOMY

Thousands more jobs likely to go

More than 2,400 people lost their jobs were lost or entered the layoff process in Greece within the month of November. The announcement of new voluntary retirement programs for another 4,000 workers at state companies and corporations, the quiet preparation by several banks for programs regarding extensive voluntary departures, the nonrenewal of staff contracts for those employed under the status of the «hired» and temporarily employed personnel are the first signs of the widely anticipated reduction in employment. Unofficial figures suggest that about 5,000 employees have been or will be left out of work. The fact that the country has continued to rely on the main pillars of construction, tourism, shipping and the like for years rather than looking into new areas of economic development is also likely to hurt employess this winter. The General Confederation of Greek Labor (GSEE) estimates that the overall picture of employment in Greece will become very negative from March 2009, when expectations from the retail sales period will have evaporated. There is currently no sufficient data regarding the decline in employment. However, what worries GSEE most is the possible rapid escalation of poverty, particularly the form that is not registered statistically through unemployment but also includes employees and pensioners. This phenomenon is not even reduced when the joblessness rate goes down. The Poverty Observatory set up by GSEE and the University of Athens estimates that Greece has a long-term rate of poverty that affects 14 percent of the population – the second-largest percentage among the 15 «old» members of the European Union.