Greece said yesterday it plans to create 62,900 jobs next year, targeted principally at women, the young and the long-term unemployed, in an effort to reduce the number of jobless, among the highest in the European Union. Prime Minister Costas Simitis said the government was determined to bring down the unemployment rate even further after a decline to 9.6 percent in the second quarter of the year. «This is the first time since 1997 that the jobless rate is in single digits. This is a positive development but we are not satisfied. Our goal is to reduce it even more,» he said. According to the EU’s official statistical office, Eurostat, Greece’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in June stood at 9.9 percent, the second highest in the EU after Spain’s 11.2 percent. Luxembourg had the lowest rate at 2.3 percent. The jobless rate in the EU averaged out at 7.6 percent. The unemployment rate for Greek women in June, at 14.9 percent, was more than double that for males which stood at 6.5 percent. Among the under-25s, the rate for females again exceeded the male figure by a significant margin. Simitis said the government was halfway to reaching its goal of generating 300,000 jobs over the 2000-2004 period. In the first two years of the scheme, 160,000 posts were created. Three new programs to be launched next year will specifically target women, the under-30s and the long-term unemployed, three categories where the jobless rate is above the average. Businesses taking part in the scheme will receive a year’s subsidy, on condition they retain the new employees for an additional six months without state aid. The first scheme will benefit 5,000 women, with priority given to those with more than three children and those from single-parent families. The cost of the program is set at 24.95 million euros. The second scheme, budgeted at 19.4 million euros, is set to benefit 5,000 under-30s venturing into the labor market for the first time. The third program, targeted at the long-term unemployed between 45 and 65 years old, will cost 31.2 million euros. Subsidies will also be given to companies which can generate a total of 25,000 new places, the majority of which will have to be allocated to women, the under-25s and the short-term unemployed. Businesses taking on socially vulnerable groups or firms focusing on the environment or culture will receive state aid. Unemployed young people planning to set up their own businesses can also apply to the State for financial assistance. The scheme, budgeted at 110 million euros, is set to benefit 10,000 jobless people. The government also said it plans to increase unemployment benefits by 7 percent next year, which would raise the minimum allowance to 11.32 euros.