Labor and Social Security Minister Tassos Yiannitsis said yesterday the influx of immigrant workers had drastically changed the realities of the Greek labor market and that their presence had made a crucial contribution to the country’s attainment of entry criteria for European Economic and Monetary Union. Speaking at a Foreign Ministry conference on illegal immigration and related problems, Yiannitsis said foreign workers – both legal and illegal – who today number about 700,000 (or more than 10 percent of Greece’s labor force) and are mainly employed in unskilled jobs, had helped in the growth of the country’s gross domestic product and in keeping inflation at bay. Immigrant workers had given a boost to the farming sector, which, according to the Agriculture Ministry, absorbs on average 108,000 of them monthly, Yiannitsis said. Furthermore, their employment had helped contain labor costs and boost the flexibility of many small enterprises, although this had also meant increased unemployment pressures on Greek workers and their partial replacement with immigrants in certain sectors, particularly in construction and tourism. Another positive factor was the contributions of foreign workers to social security funds, Yiannitsis said. On the negative side, the minister cited pressures on the country’s already inadequate social and public services and the outflow of foreign exchange in the form of workers’ remittances. Lastly, Yiannitsis expressed the view that policing measures against illegal immigration were bound to have only limited results as long as the political and economic reasons that forced immigrants to abandon their home countries persisted. He also expressed concern that recent events in the USA may give rise to racist phenomena.